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Future in the Sky: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have become a widely discussed topic these days due to their operational capabilities and cost advantages. This raises the question, “Why aren’t UAVs more common?”

According to Yıldıray Yıldız, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the biggest issue that needs to be solved in order to increase the usage of drones is safety. “And since safety is difficult to test in reality, there is a need for advanced simulation programs,” he explains. “The problem with the existing programs is that the models of interaction between manned and unmanned vehicles are insufficient. This is because a) they assume that human behavior is known a priori, and b) they disregard human reactions and decision-making processes. A technology that can estimate the route of manned vehicles does not exist at present.”

Dr. Yıldız’s UAV project, which he has started at Bilkent with support from TÜBİTAK, builds on work he previously did at NASA. That work had to do with predicting the reaction of humans in complex scenarios. Using similar principles, the current project involves developing simulators that will help solve the problem of integrating UAVs into national airspace through their ability to foresee the outcomes of scenarios that include both UAVs and manned vehicles. The TÜBİTAK-funded project is scheduled for completion in the next three years, and the resulting simulation program is expected to be superior to all such programs currently in use.

The project will benefit not only military aircraft but also civilian aviation. For instance, if the simulation program confirms that drones are safe, it could make drone delivery possible in countries where it is not currently legal due to safety regulations.