Ohio State MAE student GNC finalist at SciTech 21

Posted: January 15, 2021
Rachit Aggarwal

An Ohio State mechanical engineering student from the Laboratory for Autonomy in Data-Driven and Complex Systems is a finalist for the Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) Graduate paper competition at the 2021 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum and Exposition.

Rachit Aggarwal, PhD Candidate and Graduate Research Associate at Laboratory for Autonomy in Data-Driven and Complex Systems (LADDCS), has been chosen as one of six finalists out of 225 submissions for his paper titled, “Multi-UAV Path Planning in a Spreading Wildfire”. Aggarwal is advised by Dr. Mrinal Kumar, Director at LADDCS.

GNC is the only discipline within SciTech that requires a full paper on completed research for review and sets a high bar for selecting its best papers. Aggarwal received a $500 award for being a finalist, and free registration for Scitech’21.

“I feel excited to be recognized by American Institute of the Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest professional society for aerospace,” he said. “I wouldn’t able have been able to accomplish this without the support of my advisor, Dr. Kumar, and my wonderful colleagues in the research group. This recognition has encouraged me to keep up the hard work.”

The paper focuses on estimating the spread of wildfires in real time and developing a mission plan for multiple drones to capture aerial images while avoiding dangers to operational safety. The overall objective of the research is to optimize the mission in such a way that drones expend minimum energy to travel and maximizes the number of regions that are scanned by multiple UAVs as opposed to a single UAV.

“In the recent years, uncontrolled wildfires have resulted in financial and physical losses, and threatened communities particularly in the dry western regions of the US. One of the major challenges in wildfire suppression efforts is the accurate forecast of the fire’s future location due to uncertainty in topography, fuel and wind,” Aggarwal said. “Our research group at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Mrinal Kumar, is dedicated to towards addressing some of the challenging problems involving forecasting in presence of uncertainties.”

To tackle the wildfire problem, the group took a two-pronged approach of developing a wildfire forecaster and providing the forecaster with the aerial imagery of the wildfire to improve the accuracy of the forecast.

Aggarwal reached his objectives for the second prong by working on path planning for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in presence of fire and developing UAVs that could be used in field tests. This recent work was one of the integral pieces that would allow the use of multiple UAVs for the wildfire monitoring, Aggarwal said.

The faculty at OSU has been very welcoming to new research ideas and dedicated towards the overall development of their graduate students, according to Aggarwal. He was very thankful to all of the faculty he came into contact with.

“I have certainly learnt a lot from my advisor, Dr. Kumar, who has played an instrumental role in shaping the research ideas and has always motivated me to think out of the box,” he said. “Other faculty members such as Dr. Gregory at Aerospace Research Center and Dr. Williams at School of Environment and Natural Resources have also been an inspiration to pursue research in unmanned aerial vehicles and wildfire.”

Aggarwal is currently working towards his graduation in 2021 and hopes to find a role in the industry of aerial or industrial robotics