Increasingly Autonomous Perception and Decision Systems for Advanced Air Mobility


Dr. Ella Atkins
Fred D. Durham Professor and Head
Kevin T. Crofton Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department
Virginia Tech, USA



Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) including passenger transport and Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) of all sizes requires autonomy capable of safely managing contingency responses as well as routine flight. This talk will describe pathways from aviation today to a fully autonomous AAM of the future. Research toward comprehensive low-altitude flight environment mapping and urgent landing planning will be summarized. Dynamic airspace geofencing in support of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) will be defined and compared with traditional fixed airspace corridor solutions. Ongoing research efforts target effective collaboration with human AAM participants necessary to plan and learn offline as well as support real-time decision-making. The talk will conclude with a discussion of autonomous aviation system certification and licensing.


Biography of the speaker

Dr. Ella Atkins is Fred D. Durham Professor and Head of the Kevin T. Crofton Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. She was previously a Professor in the University of Michigan’s Aerospace Engineering Department and Robotics Institute.

Dr. Atkins holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan. She is an AIAA Fellow and private pilot. She served on the National Academy’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and has authored over 220 refereed journal and conference papers.

Dr. Atkins has pursued research in AI-enabled autonomy and control to support resilience and contingency management in manned and unmanned Aerospace applications.

She is Editor-in-Chief of the AIAA Journal of Aerospace Information Systems (JAIS) and a member of the Flight Safety Foundation’s Autonomous and Remotely Piloted Aviation Systems Advisory Committee (ARPAC).