Lockheed Martin sponsors four innovative Cockrell projects


Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Last Tuesday, the Cockrell School of Engineering and Lockheed Martin, a global aerospace and security company, announced a master research agreement to support innovative engineering projects.

The initial four projects funded by Lockheed Martin will include the areas of wireless communication, material science, cybersecurity and autonomy. This master agreement allows for flexibility in future negotiations with Cockrell and encourages further collaboration, according to Robert Heath, one of four project lead researchers.

“(Cockrell and Lockheed Martin) put together a master agreement which becomes a template for all future agreements so it makes it much easier for them to fund projects at Cockrell,” Heath said.

Heath, an electrical and computer engineering professor, and Travis Cuvelier, graduate research assistant, will work in the area of wireless communication. Heath, who currently works on improving communication between vehicles, was contacted by Lockheed to expand his research to include aircraft. 

“This is about establishing air-to-air communication between aerial vehicles, such as drones. If you have multiple aerial vehicles flying together to conduct a mission, you want them to be able to communicate,” Heath said.

According to Heath, current drone communication abilities are very low, and the development of new technology, such as increasing wireless bandwidths, will expand capabilities of aerial and automated vehicles and cellular networks.

Guihua Yu, materials science and mechanical engineering assistant professor, will concentrate on materials science.

“My group has been working on nanoarchitectured materials with very unique chemical and physical properties for smart and adaptive technologies,” Yu said. “In simple terms, we’ll be developing some transformative materials for future sensors and electronics based on our existing expertise on nanostructured materials.”

Michael Orshansky, electrical and computer engineering professor, will work alongside faculty members Mohit Tiwari and Andreas Gerstlauer in his department to conduct a cybersecurity research project.

“One of (our focuses) is related to developing efficient ways of detecting malware when it runs on embedded systems … (We are also) looking into the future to when quantum computers become a reality and begin jeopardizing the security of existing encryption,” Orshansky said. 

According to Orshansky, better malware detection is necessary because currently available defenses are not able to prevent sophisticated low-level attacks.

Computer science professor Peter Stone will pursue the area of autonomy with graduate student Piyush Khandelwal, postdoctoral researcher Stefano Albrecht and researcher Garrett Warnell. According to Stone, most autonomous robots act individually and in the short term for a specific purpose. 

“The focus of this project takes autonomy to the next level,” Stone said. “It’s about multi-robot, long-term autonomy … Multirobot as in there won’t be just one autonomous robot, (and) they’ll have to learn how to work as teammates or adversaries.”

Stone hopes to broaden the learning and cooperative capabilities of robots so that they may be used in initiatives together, such as in an urban search-and-rescue scenario.

Stone believes that interaction is one of the key elements of intelligence and hopes this project will give him a fuller understanding of this topic while influencing the artificial intelligence community.

Cherie Rachel, director of Cockrell research relations, said the new partnership will allow for continued innovation in engineering. 

“Industry-university partnerships are critical to addressing many of the challenges that impact our society,” Rachel said. “This partnership with Lockheed Martin is very important to both organizations because it allows us to combine our areas of expertise and work together to find new solutions.”