Harris receives Outstanding Student Researcher Award from FAA Center of Excellence

Harris Outstanding Student ResearcherJoshua Harris, a graduate student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Center of Excellence as the 2017 PEGASAS Outstanding Student Researcher from Texas A&M.

Each PEGASAS member university is given an opportunity to honor their top student working on a PEGASAS project, and Harris was selected for his research on “Characterization of Derived Angle-of-Attack and Flight Path Angle Algorithms for General Aviation Platforms.” The students are evaluated by faculty from their university in the categories of technical merit and research, academic performance, and professionalism and leadership.

Harris is a graduate research assistant in the Vehicle Systems & Control Laboratory, and has been working with his advisor, Dr. John Valasek, for six years. For PEGASAS Harris created a Monte Carlo analysis software tool that uses actual pilot inputs to generate realistic aircraft trajectories and states, which were then measured by realistic sensor models that he developed. These measured states were then used to compute angle-of-attack and sideslip angle, and compared to “truth” values to assess the suitability for general aviation pilot displays, envelope protection and fly-by-wire flight control systems. 

It is expected that the results of this work will be recommended minimum performance standards for the algorithm and the criteria for each use case that can be codified into a standard or a circular. Harris subsequently presented a paper on his PEGASAS research at the 2017 AIAA AVIATION Conference in June 2017.  

“Joshua’s contributions to our FAA research project were outstanding in all regards and were recognized by our FAA technical monitor, in addition to our project teammates at The Ohio State University,” Valasek says. “His work is always technically rigorous, thorough and of the highest quality. I am very proud of him.”

The PEGASAS Advisory Board has also selected Harris from the eligible Outstanding Student Researchers at each PEGASAS member university as the 2017 PEGASAS nominee for the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Student of the Year award, which will be decided in the fall.

"It is a great honor to be selected as the PEGASAS Outstanding Student Researcher for Texas A&M University and to be nominated for the DOT Student of the Year award,” Harris said. “Both of these honors would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Valasek, fellow members of the Vehicle Systems & Control Laboratory and our research collaborators at OSU and FAA. I am pleased to have been able to help contribute to enhancing the safety of general aviation aircraft, which has been a reward in itself."

Harris earned bachelor’s in aerospace engineering Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&M in 2014. He is a recipient of the National Defense Science Graduate Fellowship, the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship and the Sigma Gamma Tau Outstanding Texas A&M University Aerospace Engineering Senior for 2014. Harris is currently a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Intelligent Systems Technical Committee. This summer he will be defending his master’s thesis “Nonlinear Adaptive Inversion Control for Variable Stability Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” and will be joining Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas as a software engineer.