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UND team named FAA Data Challenge finalist

Team will travel to Washington for contest, which asks students to use data to solve aviation safety problems

A team of UND Aerospace students has been named a finalist in the FAA’s first-ever Data Challenge, a national competition that offers as top prize a $25,000 award.

The FAA Data Challenge focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to address aviation-related problems and opportunities. The competition invites teams from U.S.-based colleges and universities to offer creative solutions to current and future aviation challenges.

“We hope to create and stimulate a pipeline of talent who will become transportation leaders of tomorrow,” the FAA declares on its contest website. “The successful submissions will push the boundary and introduce novel approaches to aviation problems as the FAA moves further towards an info-centric National Airspace System.”

Ten teams from eight different U.S. universities were named as finalists. The UND team consists of students Zachary Hoff, Jocelyn Ledin-Bruening, John Dulski and Ryan Peene. Their entry, titled “LAGOM: A Balanced Approach to Real-Time Flight Safety Analysis,” calls for using a common aircraft detection and tracking technology called ADS-B to monitor aviation safety events – and provide information about those events to federal regulators – in real time.

“These students were able to use skills they learned and practiced in AVIT 412, Aviation Safety Analysis, and come up with an idea for a safety tool that can be used by the FAA and industry to prevent accidents and incidents,” said UND Associate Professor of Aviation Brandon Wild, a faculty advisor to the team.

(From left) Zachary Hoff, Ryan Peene, Jocelyn Ledin-Bruening, and John Dulski, UND’s FAA Data Challenge team, stand in Odegard Hall, not far from the lab in which they did their research. Photo by Arjun Jagada/Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Ryan Guthridge, assistant professor of aviation at UND and Wild’s fellow faculty advisor, agreed. “What the students have proposed fills a real gap in the industry,” Guthridge said.

Using the students’ solution, safety incidents such as a runway incursion would be instantly recognized, rather than reported after-the-fact as often happens today. “It ties into a lot of the FAA’s safety initiatives, and because it uses an existing data stream and matches it with software that we already have, it’s really an elegant solution,” Guthridge said.

“This shows that the data-analytics program we have at UND allows students to identify and overcome some real challenges for the aviation industry. We can forge relationships with the industry, we can work with the FAA, and we can solve significant problems right here at the University.”

Lagom, incidentally, is a Swedish term referring to maintaining balance in everyday life. The UND students chose the term for their project, using it as an acronym for Leveraging ADS-B for GA (General Aviation) and Operations Management of the National Airspace System.

Finalist teams will demonstrate their solutions in June at the FAA Data Challenge Forum in Washington. Each of the teams will be given a stipend to offset the cost of traveling.

After the finalists’ technical papers and demonstrations are reviewed, the top three teams’ home universities each will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize. In addition, the team earning Best Overall Submission will receive an additional $15,000.

The FAA Data Challenge is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration. The National Institute of Aerospace is a nonprofit research, graduate education and outreach institute located in Hampton, Va.

Much of the data analytics work at UND Aerospace takes place in this classroom, the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab. UND archival photo.