The Office of Research and Creative Activity (RCA) has designated Xin (Rex) Sun, NDSU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering associate professor, as the faculty fellow for uncrewed autonomous systems (UAS). In this role, Sun will collaborate closely with RCA staff to enhance communication, coordination, and interaction across campus and with external entities, including private sector businesses and other universities. He will also develop and promote activities aimed at bolstering NDSU's contributions to the evolving ecosystem of UA systems within the state, with a primary objective of enhancing NDSU's national expertise profile.
The UAS faculty fellow position aligns with recent initiatives focused on supporting autonomous systems in the state and supports NDSU's research and commercialization framework. North Dakota has several UAS initiatives, including the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site (NPUAS Test Site), which is one of seven sites in the U.S. chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to facilitate integration into the National Airspace System; the funded Vantis Network, which aims to establish infrastructure for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAS flights in North Dakota; and the North Dakota UAS business park Grand Sky, concentrating on UAS testing, training, and commercialization. This is the first Faculty Fellow position in RCA dedicated to UAS.
NDSU has been at the forefront of impactful use cases for autonomous systems through precision agriculture programs. There is considerable potential to accelerate the partnerships and advances in UAS given the significant investment in autonomy from the state and from private industry like Appareo and John Deere along with the infrastructure provided by the NPUAS Test Site and Grand Farm and its new Innovation Facility. This is an ideal time to leverage existing faculty expertise in autonomy, sensing, and UAS-related disciplines, aligning resources with state, federal, and private research and innovation opportunities.
"North Dakota's leadership in the UAS field combined with our state's powerhouse status in agricultural research means NDSU is positioned to catalyze big ideas and further our prominence on a national stage," said NDSU Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Colleen Fitzgerald. " The exciting news that our FARMS Initiative made it to the semifinals in National Science Foundation's Type-2 Engines competition demonstrates North Dakota’s potential to foster our regional innovation ecosystem to address the global challenges in food insecurity. The UAS Faculty Fellow program is precisely designed to advance opportunities like this and build a network of NDSU researchers and innovators for the benefit of our campus and state."