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Farnam Jahanian
Farnam Jahanian provides opening remarks.

Aviation and Robotics Summit Comes to Carnegie Mellon

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Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

Carnegie Mellon University hosted several days of a summit charged with solving aviation challenges with robotics solutions. The event brought airline executives, industry technologists and roboticists to Pittsburgh, which organizers hailed as “the robotics capital of the world(opens in new window).” 

Sessions at CMU’s Tepper Building included discussions about opportunities and challenges for incorporating AI and robotics technology in the aviation industry; deploying technology through partnerships; short talks from aviation, robotics and AI leaders; and interactive workshops. 

Basic research fuels industry innovations

In opening remarks on May 15, CMU President Farnam Jahanian emphasized the power of research and innovation as a driver of economic growth across industries.

“Within the timespan that you've seen the amazing impact of the aviation industry, we've also seen AI and robotics emerge as perhaps the single most significant intellectual development of our time,” Jahanian said. “Our society has taken major leaps forward with data-enabled, technology-driven discovery and innovation. Over the last few decades, these advancements are shaping virtually every sector, every market, from health care, manufacturing and logistics, obviously the aviation industry, space exploration, and even in fact, the very essence of scientific discoveries being transformed as a result of access to new technologies.” 

Rebecca Nugent

Rebecca Nugent delivers a quick-fire presentation.

Longstanding partnership between CMU and Pittsburgh International Airport

Jahanian noted that CMU has a long history of using AI technology for the aviation industry. In the 1950s CMU researchers led by Herb Simon(opens in new window) worked with the United States Airforce to develop a simple AI technology to improve landing and takeoff schedules. 

Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said that the Pittsburgh International Airport has recently partnered with CMU on several projects, including graduate student capstone projects, startups that improved security and wait times at the airport, and NavCog(opens in new window), an app that helps visually impaired people navigate airports and other unfamiliar spaces. She also noted an upcoming collaboration with the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation(opens in new window)

“We're just very grateful to have this globally recognized university here in the community and such a great partner to us,” Cassotis said. 

The event was hosted by the Pittsburgh International Airport and Future Travel Experience, a group that works with airlines, airports, vendors and other stakeholders in the airline industry to improve passenger experience. In addition to Jahanian, Carmel Majidi(opens in new window), a professor of mechanical engineering, presented about robotics research, and Rebecca Nugent(opens in new window), the Fienberg Professor of Statistics & Data Science presented about the importance of good data and people when incorporating AI systems. 

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