NASA has awarded a small business grant to the University of Cincinnati (UC) to develop better autonomous navigation for drones.

Sharing this grant with Pennsylvania company VISIMO, UC is among 41 public institutions and 257 small businesses across the United States to have bagged a slice of the $50 million pie in Small Business Innovation Research grants from NASA.

Now, UC College of Engineering and Applied Science aerospace engineering professor Kelly Cohen will work with VISIMO to develop a testing environment that will evaluate the safety and stability of artificial intelligence algorithms used in autonomous drones.

Using 3D simulation, the project will assess complex sensor fusion and decision-making routines needed for the real-time autonomous navigation of drones.

The idea is to test the onboard AI systems for unexpected situations that may result in cascading failures, such as a sudden storm that knocks out a drone’s sensor or cameras.