Fredonia research team awarded $50,000 NSF grant to advance Flight Data Tracker system
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to a research team at the SUNY Fredonia that may lead to widespread use of their revolutionary Flight Data Tracker to better monitor and track airline flights and potentially save lives.
An Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) grant will allow the Fredonia team, ZubAir Data LLC, to participate in an intensive seven-week innovation and entrepreneurship training program. Team members will interview 100 industry leaders to test their hypotheses about the effect, marketability and need for their innovative tracking system, according to Professor of Computer and Information Systems Junaid Zubairi.
The Flight Data Tracker has the potential to render obsolete the “black box” – a key investigation tool used in all airplane accidents and incidents – by providing the real-time transmission of vital flight data to ground-level sensors, so expensive and time-consuming searches would no longer be necessary to obtain that information which is currently stored only the airplane.
While ZubAir Data has an overview of customer needs across the broad spectrum of aviation, including commercial aircraft, small jets and drones, there is still much more to learn in order to tailor the Flight Data Tracker to customer needs, Dr. Zubairi explained. The I-Corps grant will enable the team to determine how the system can be designed to fit the needs of potential customers. This funded research will also help ZubAir Data learn how each potential customer segment would like the system installed and also address licensing, subscription and usage fees.
“ZubAir team considers the NSF I-Corps grant as a vital link in our path to commercialization,” said Zubairi, chair of Fredonia’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences.
The NSF awarded 28 I-Corp grants to some of the country’s top universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Cornell, Georgetown, Purdue and University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and companies. Fredonia was the lone SUNY school to receive an I-Corp grant.
ZubAir Data’s current Flight Data Tracker model is in the Beta prototype stage. It can record parameters, such as altitude, pressure and temperature, and convert code into analog signals that can be sent and received over a specified radio frequency or channel, Zubairi explained. These signals can then be processed into readable data at a ground-level host. The received data are then visualized for human interpretation using real-time plots and stored in the cloud, he said.
Advanced Data Research labs, a client at the Fredonia Technology Incubator, was formed by Zubairi two years ago in close cooperation with Chuck Cornell, director of the Fredonia Technology Incubator, to create the Flight Data Tracker. Zubairi, the CEO of ZubAir Data LLC., was awarded a U.S. patent in 2017 for the system.
"I have been fortunate to be involved with Dr. Zubairi and his team," Mr. Cornell said. "They have effectively advanced the commercialization of this patented technology innovation right here at SUNY Fredonia's incubator."
ZubAir Data, formed through the support of the technology incubator and its support programs, is believed to be the first NSF I-Corps team from the university.
The Fredonia team, led by Zubairi, the principal investigator and technical lead, includes Cornell, who serves as industry mentor; and Inderdeep Bajwa, a senior majoring in Computer Science at Fredonia, as the entrepreneurial lead; and Douglas Benel, an intern with SUNY Research Foundation and student at Albany Law School, as co-entrepreneurial lead.
Fredonia Interim Director of Grants and Sponsored Research Kathleen Gradel assisted the team in the grant submission process.
Zubairi has participated in the customer discovery process with other team members and has worked to identify resources, a business model and revenue stream.
The National Science Foundation created the I-Corps program in 2011 to reduce the time and risk associated with translating promising ideas and technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Zubairi indicated he was pleased with the reception the project received from the campus administration.