Grad student develops advanced drone technologies

Engineer of the Month winner draws from a lifetime of interest in aerospace engineering

Rumit Kumar headshot

Rumit Kumar. Photo/provided.

Rumit Kumar, an aerospace engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati, was named the June 2020 Graduate Student Engineer of the Month by the College of Engineering and Applied Science. 

Kumar’s academic and research pursuits were born from a childhood spent gazing at the night sky and gathering details about space missions and the latest advancements in space exploration. He came to UC for graduate school in 2015 after earning his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Maharshi Dayanand University Rohtak in his native India. 

“I wanted to pursue higher education in aerospace engineering with dynamics and control specialization,” Kumar said. “UC has a very strong group of researchers working in this area. Our aerospace engineering program is world famous.”

For his Ph.D. work, Kumar developed advanced flight controllers for unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. He is working on tilt-rotor quadcopter drones and will soon implement his controllers and begin flight testing. A recent paper on his research has been accepted to the prestigious American Control Conference 2020. 

Drone footage of traffic at an intersection

Rumit Kumar used drones to help create traffic monitoring software.

For three years, Kumar worked on a project funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation to develop traffic monitoring software that helps track traffic at signalized intersections to minimize traffic jams. Kumar used computer vision and deep learning techniques to study traffic patterns with drones to estimate traffic-flow parameters. He received a “best presentation award” for his talk on the subject at the AIAA Intelligent Systems Workshop in 2019. 

Kumar also earned his master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. His master’s research focused on the study of fault-tolerant control capabilities in UAVs. He received accolades for his paper on fault-tolerant drones from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Dynamic Systems and Control Conference. He also was part of a collaboration with the UAV research group from University of Bordeaux in France that published three papers on advanced aerial drone platforms and fault-tolerant control algorithm for UAVs. The work was honored as the best student presentation at the 42nd Dayton-Cincinnati Aerospace Science Symposium by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.    

“I am extremely passionate about the work in the development of futuristic robotics technologies and I want to apply my research for solving real-world problems. This includes both ground and aerial robots. The applications of these robots are increasing in the civilian domain and I want to develop technologies which can promote autonomy in our day-to-day life,” Kumar said.

Kumar works as a graduate research assistant in the Cooperative Distributed Systems lab and the UAV MASTER lab with Manish Kumar, professor of mechanical engineering, and Kelly Cohen, professor and interim head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. He credits both of his advisors with inspiring him to push the boundaries to bring out the best in his work.

“UC gave me the platform to explore and present my ideas in front of an international audience and contribute to the society through my research,” he said. 

Quadcopter drone

Rumit Kumar developed advanced controllers for quadcopter UAVs. Photos/provided.