The leader of NASA’s Glenn Research Center said the space agency could build more partnerships with academic research institutions and aerospace-related companies in the Dayton region.
Glenn Research Center Director James Free toured academic and defense industry-related firms and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Thursday, learning about human health studies at Wright State Research Institute to unmanned aerial vehicles at the Ohio UAS Test Center in Springfield.
“As a native Ohioan, one of the things I can do is bring the expertise at NASA Glenn and share it with other parts of the state,” said Free, a Miami University graduate. “The potential for (unmanned aerial vehicles) is just tremendous and I think Glenn can contribute to that.”
Part of NASA’s role is to boost economic growth through commercial licensing of new technologies, Free said.
“One of the big pushes they have is to translate or transition their technology or their (intellectual property) and make it usable in all kinds of different areas and sectors,” said Jason Parker, Wright State Research Institute director.
State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek and co-chairman of the state’s legislative aerospace caucus, organized the tour to the region after he visited the NASA research center near Cleveland. Free was scheduled to have closed-door meetings at defense firms such as Woolpert and Defense Research Associates in Beavercreek and visits with top leadership at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson, among other local stops.
“I want them to see the hometown companies … so they can see some of the technology that we’re doing here, some of our resources, some of our strengths and see where there’s collaboration,” said Perales, a retired Air Force officer once assigned to the space shuttle program and Wright-Patterson. “It still goes down (to) no matter where technology is, it’s people meeting people and collaborating.”
With the end of the shuttle operations and a decline in NASA funds, the space agency has more reasons to collaborate, Perales said.
“There’s a need,” he said. “NASA is hurting as badly as anyone else because their funding has dropped.”
In the case of Wright State, the university’s research institute could, among the possibilities, collaborate on human health performance with Glenn Research Center, officials said.
“I think there’s some direct carry over to the research, such as bone density studies that are done after crew members return from orbit,” Free said.
Collaborating on UAV development is another possibility, officials said. Glenn has a technology directive to make command and control communications between UAVs and ground-based operators more secure.
“I think as we were all talking we realized we’re working on similar problems,” Parker said. “I think absolutely there are going to be multiple collaborations that come out of these meetings today.”
NASA has a long partnership with Wright-Patterson-headquartered Air Force Research Laboratory. AFRL and NASA have worked together recently on the development of turbine engines, Free said.
In May, NASA selected Development Projects Inc., the public sector funding arm of the Dayton Development Coalition, to manage a two-year UAV fly-off competition to safely integrate unmanned vehicles into civilian airspace. The competition, set to launch next year, will be managed and flown in Ohio and over a closed test range in Indiana.