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College of Engineering Hires Renowned UAS Expert Paul Oh

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Oh will create unmanned autonomous systems lab, head DARPA robotics challenge.
Campus News  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  By Megan Downs
Media Contact: Megan Downs, (702) 895-3965

Renowned UAS expert Paul Oh is bringing his HUBO humanoid robots and feet of drones to the UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

The UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering is pleased to announce the hiring of Paul Oh, an internationally renowned expert in unmanned autonomous systems research with more than 20 years of experience in the robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles industry.

Oh joined UNLV in August as the Lincy Professor of Unmanned Aerial Systems for the College of Engineering. He will establish a UAS lab with a humanoid robots and a fleet of drones and brings with him over $1 million in grant research. He joins UNLV from Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"This is one of the best hires the College of Engineering has ever made," said Rama Venkat, dean of the College of Engineering. "With the addition of Professor Oh, this sets the stage for UNLV to become an international leader in discovering the most updated applications for autonomous systems."

Oh said he was inspired to join UNLV because of the university's commitment to statewide economic diversification and desire to nurture the young UAS industry. Less than one year ago Nevada received the FAA designation to become a testing location for UAS. UNLV strives to become an intellectual and research hub for the burgeoning industry.

"The College of Engineering has been engaged in over a decade of unmanned aerial vehicles research and we are well positioned to see this field really blossom," Oh said. "It's exciting to be front row and center and see how state and private industry is committed to this vision for the region and nation."

Oh is a former program director for robotics at the National Science Foundation, where he managed a portfolio that supported almost all non-military robotics research in American universities. He has been a Fellow for Boeing, the Office of Naval Research, and the NASA Caltech/Jet Propulsion Lab. Oh founded the IEEE Technical Committee on Aerial Robots and UAVs and is an emeritus chair, and serves on editorial boards like the Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems and the Journal of Intelligent Service Robots.

One of Oh's first orders of business at UNLV will be to lead a UNLV-based team to advance robotics technology for disaster relief as part of a challenge laid down by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The DARPA Robotics Challenge will task Oh and his team with building the best robot capable of navigating human environments, using tools and driving vehicles with the goal of deployment as first responders in a disaster zone similar to what was experienced during the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor accident. Oh and his team have already advanced through the first phase of the competition to become one of only a handful of teams worldwide to participate in the June competition in Pamona, Calif.

Oh brought with him a small team of researchers from Drexel University. Together they will recruit industry partners and UNLV students to work on the DARPA challenge. They will compete for a $2 million prize in an international contest in June 2015.

"I think it's imperative for today's engineering students to have those hands-on opportunities," Oh said. "More than just robots, they are case studies of complex systems engineering."

Oh has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Columbia University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Seoul National University in South Korea and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from McGill University in Canada.

The college of engineering is committed to high quality research and programs on unmanned autonomous systems. This fall, the college began a minor program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The minor provides students with experience on unmanned surveillance, data collection, and autonomous operations. The courses consist of key engineering and computer science courses related technology, privacy and pilot training.


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