The Future of Flying

Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Students

Civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. students Parisa Sanaei and Michael Ammoury were selected for graduate research awards from Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP).  The ACRP awards support research to improve the quality, reliability, safety, and security of the United States airport industry.

Ammoury’s research will focus on improving the resilience and sustainability of airports by combining artificial intelligence, internet of things, and other smart technologies.

Many airports already have facilities and sensors that monitor environmental functions, but Ammoury will explore how those existing and novel technologies can work together to improve the environmental and resilience aspects in airports.

“Airports are like small smart cities. The digital infrastructure in airports needs to communicate seamlessly with each other,” said Ammoury.

“Existing indoor air quality sensors can be combined with foot traffic sensors to optimize indoor air quality and reduce airborne disease transmission,” said Ammoury. “Working together, they can reduce the negative environmental impacts while also augmenting safety and mitigating the impacts of disruptions.”

Sanaei’s research will explore the use of emerging technology to improve airport runway safety. Current regulations require that airport runways be inspected at least once a day for debris, damage, or contamination. These are often visual inspections performed by airport maintenance staff.

“A minor crack or small piece of debris may seem insignificant, but each instance can be the beginning of serious pavement issues that have the potential to cause hazardous events to occur,” said Sanaei.

By taking advantage of evolving remote sensing technologies, such as digital photogrammetry and laser scanning, Sanaei believes airport authorities can not only create and implement a cost-effective runway operation and maintenance program but also improve overall safety.

“Runway inspection procedures could be more accurate and less time-consuming through automation, which may offer a great potential in prolonging the service life of runways and meeting the level of service requirements with greater efficiency,” said Sanaei. “My work will focus on developing an integrated automated system offered by emerging technologies for runway inspection procedure.”

The ACRP Graduate Research Award offers a $12,000 stipend as well as the opportunity for the student’s final research paper to be published in the Transportation Research Record journal and to present their work at the Transportation Research Board’s 2023 Annual Meeting.

Sanaei and Ammoury are grateful for the support they have received from their advisor Professor Baris Salman and the civil and environmental engineering department faculty and staff.

“We are extremely happy for receiving these prestigious awards. In total only nine winners were selected from all over the country, and it makes us proud to know that that both of our proposals were accepted. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently graded our nation’s aviation infrastructure with a “D+”. There is significant room for improvement when it comes to management and maintenance of airports. We anticipate that our projects will be helpful in addressing these gaps,” said Salman.

“The department is incredibly supportive and providing us with access to incredible facilities,” said Ammoury.

“Their support has given us this incredible opportunity to tackle practical real-world problems and design solutions for the airport sector,” said Sanaei.