University of Minnesota Driven to Discover

Recently in Aviation Category

In late 2013, announced that it plans to someday use unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to deliver packages. Amazon is not alone in considering these systems—the list of potential uses for this technology is rapidly expanding. Where is this technology headed, and what does it mean for the region, and for transportation?

State and national experts discussed these issues at an April 30 forum hosted by the Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP), a part of CTS.

Often referred to as drones, modern UASs can be used for a broad range of activities, from aerial photography, surveying, precision agriculture, and communications to disaster response, wildlife research, and infrastructure protection.

A hurdle to broader use is the lack of rules and regulations. Last November the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its first annual roadmap outlining policies, regulations, technologies, and procedures needed to safely integrate UASs into U.S. airspace; it plans to issue regulations by 2015.

“The greatest challenge is integrating UASs into the National Airspace System,” said Brigadier General Alan Palmer, director of the Center for UAS Research, Education, and Training at the University of North Dakota. “We want to do this safely, we want to do no harm, and we want to be sure not to violate somebody’s personal space. We do not have any regulations for standards, training, certification, or anything like them. But we will get there.”

Other concerns include privacy issues and the existing aviation/navigation infrastructure, which did not account for a future including UASs when it was built 50 years ago.

To learn more about the forum, read the full article in the June issue of Catalyst. In addition, a proceedings from the event will be available on the AirTAP website this summer.


Nearly every time a highway or airport expansion is proposed, transportation planners face opposition from residents who fear the increased noise levels in their homes and businesses. Traffic noise is often mitigated with physical noise barriers, but the large, thick walls often draw opposition as well.

A new technology developed by University
 of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor 
Rajesh Rajamani as part of 
a research project funded
 by the National Science
 Foundation could soon
 provide a nearly invisible
 solution for transportation 
noise cancellation—and 
give transportation planners another tool for overcoming project opposition.

Noise enters homes close to airports and highways primarily through windows, and windows can transmit ten times the sound energy as walls can, says Rajamani. With this in mind, researchers set out to reduce the amount of transportation noise transmitted through windows.

To accomplish this goal, researchers created a method of active noise control for windows. Active noise control works by using speakers to generate a sound wave that is a mirror image of the undesirable sound wave. Superimposing an "anti-noise" wave of the same amplitude as the undesirable noise wave results in a reduced decibel level of noise in the environment.

The research team began by designing thin, transparent speaker panels to fit in the empty space between the two panes of a double-pane window. Then, the researchers tested the effectiveness of the new speakers, using them to cancel out undesirable transportation noise from outside the home while preserving the desirable noise from inside the home.

In addition to mitigating traffic noise, this new technology offers other surprising benefits. Researchers have found that the "smart window" speakers can actually be used as home audio speakers without losing any of their noise-control benefits.

Read the full article in the February issue of Catalyst.

17-jet.jpgMore than 70 airport staff and others who work with airports across Minnesota attended the annual AirTAP Fall Forum on September 26 and 27. This year’s event, held at the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) offices in Richfield, gave attendees an inside look at the MAC’s operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with tours of various airport facilities and a drive around its perimeter.

MSP International is the 13th busiest airfield in North America and operates much like a small city.

 “We’re essentially a public works department,” said Paul Sichko, assistant director for MSP maintenance and airside operations. Sichko led the tour group inside the 16 miles of security fence—reinforced since 9/11 to prevent vehicles from crashing through.

Along the route, the group got a look at how the airport will handle the snow and ice once it arrives: massive snow blowers, numerous deicing pads, and three in-ground snow melters that can liquefy 120 tons of snow per hour, Sichko noted.          

Inside the MAC’s Trades Building, attendees toured the carpentry, signage, painting, electrical, and plumbing operations. On hand were staff who create signage for all seven MAC airports, make and monitor keys for every lock, and paint markings on all airport pavement—including 20 runways and more than 21,000 parking stalls.

A stop at one of the airport’s two fire stations highlighted the vehicles and equipment capable of suppressing aviation jet fuel fires—and occasionally, an oil fire at a local refinery. Most calls for fire department personnel, however, are to the terminal buildings, where they’ve saved numerous passengers, Sichko said.

Back at the MAC administrative facilities, Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the MAC, discussed findings from a recently completely economic impact study of MSP airport conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting. The study found that MSP supports more than 76,000 jobs, $10.1 billion in business revenue, $3 billion in personal income, $1.9 billion in local purchases, and $611 million in state and local taxes, Hamiel noted.          

“The bottom line is we’re contributing to the overall economic stability of the region and the state.”

In 2012, MSP served 33 million passengers and accommodated 425,332 landings and takeoffs, making it 16th in North America for the number of travelers served. The 3.8 million annual domestic visitors spend $1.9 billion when they’re here. “People come to the Twin Cities, they stay in hotels, they buy food, they buy gifts, they spend their dollars, then they go back home again.”

MSP International is ninth among U.S. cities in number of nonstop markets overall; when ranked per capita, it’s fifth, Hamiel said—which is attributable in part to the market’s “phenomenal air service.”          

Hamiel said the findings are relevant beyond MSP International; the state’s smaller airports and the communities they serve thrive “because in part there’s an aviation system that supports the connectivity of the customers and consultants and businesses and so forth—it’s all important to all of us.”

Other conference sessions covered airport emergency planning, minimum operating standards, and MnDOT Aeronautics’ new Capital Improvement Program web interface.

See photos and presentations from the event.

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Center for Transportation Studies

University of Minnesota

200 Transportation & Safety Building

511 Washington Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-1077

Fax: 612-625-6381


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