May 13, 2014
Dr. Michael Francis Presents Keynote Address at AUVSI workshop on Civilian Applications of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

EAST HARTFORD, Conn., May 13, 2014 - Dr. Michael Francis, Chief, Advanced Programs and Senior Fellow at United Technologies Research Center, the central research organization of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX), served as keynote speaker at the Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) workshop on Civilian Applications of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CAUAS) held May 12, 2014, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Francis' keynote examined the key issues and opportunities for civilian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) development in the near- and long-term as well as how critical drivers such as economics, public safety, and technology advance the viability of unmanned aircraft applications.

The annual AAIA/AUVSI conference offers a good opportunity for public outreach to the UAS community. In his keynote on UAS deployment, Francis explained, “The emerging UAS civil and commercial markets afford a pathway to significant potential growth for those able to successfully enter them. Industry, government and academia are all participating in the emergence of this new marketplace.”

“In recent years, unmanned aircraft systems have attracted wide interest outside military and traditional aerospace communities. As industrial and technology companies spend development resources on new ways to harness unmanned systems technology for competitive business advantages, encompassing application trends such as package delivery, aerial inspection, agriculture management, disaster response, and others, the downside of drone technology has sparked public debate on a global scale. The public’s concerns over privacy and other quality of life issues, along with current severe restrictions on UAS access to the airspace in many countries are all factors impacting the development and maturation of UAS technological capability in the U.S and abroad. These factors will continue to impact the international competitive picture in a big way.”

He added, “With the emergence of autonomous capability and intelligent machines, our current methods for certification and building trust in these new, rapidly developing technologies are inadequate or, in some cases, totally incompatible. The challenges ahead are driven by a combination of technology, regulatory inertia, and legal precedents, along with a variety of cultural factors.”

The second CAUAS workshop was focused on a midterm assessment of the progress of civilian UAS applications development and airspace integration since the original workshop in 2008. The participants’ over-arching goal, continuing through 2017, is to develop policy-informing recommendations to the broader UAS community to enable progress toward airspace integration and expanded civilian applications by addressing environmental, safety, and legal issues.

“Creating an integrated vision that brings all parties together can be difficult, due to competing technology and a variety of public concerns,” Francis advised. “To that end, the CAUAS workshop attendees worked to reach a consensus on the most important issues and their means of resolution, specifically those needed to help unmanned aircraft systems used in civil and commercial applications reach their full potential economically and for the public good.”

The workshop was conducted as part of the AIAA/AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014 Conference and Trade Show (May 12-15, 2014), which is the largest show of its kind in the world. The annual event attracts more than 8,000 participants, including 600 exhibitors and the world’s leading experts in unmanned aircraft systems each year. The CAUAS Workshop is jointly sponsored by AUVSI and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the U.S. aerospace industry’s pre-eminent professional society. It is the first of its kind jointly sponsored activity by the two organizations.

Francis is an expert in systems development and advanced aerospace technologies. He has been recognized by the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and AIAA for developing capabilities and directing major program initiatives in autonomous and intelligent systems; is an AIAA Fellow, serving as past national chair of the Institute's Unmanned Systems Program Committee; has pioneered conceptualization, development and delivery of leading-edge technology and advanced defense systems and capabilities to meet U.S. security challenges; and is a member of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) delivers the world's most advanced technologies, innovative thinking and disciplined research to the businesses of United Technologies – industry leaders in high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries; UTC businesses include Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, UTC Aerospace Systems and UTC Building & Industrial Systems. Founded in 1929, UTRC is headquartered in East Hartford, Conn., with an office in Berkeley, Calif. and research and development subsidiaries established in Shanghai, China, and Cork, Ireland.

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