Today, the AUVSI Foundation is recognizing three individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the unmanned systems community.
The AUVSI Member of the Year Award will be presented to Ben Miller, quartermaster, UAS operations manager at Mesa County Sheriff's Office in Grand Junction, Colo. Miller, an active AUVSI member and frequent speaker for AUVSI events, created and now leads one of the pioneering UAS programs in law enforcement. He developed a UAS program, garnered numerous Federal Aviation Administration approvals and continues to operate UAS for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office. The UAS program has six pilots and more than 140 flight hours, now operating both rotorcraft and fixed-wing systems. Through real-world experience, the project has developed many groundbreaking concepts in the use of UAS in public safety that will help define the role of this new tool in agencies across the nation.
The AUVSI Foundation will also recognize Dr. Lora G. Weiss, chief scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute. Weiss will be awarded the Academic Champion Award for her success in fostering students' interest in the field of robotics and helping them gain hands-on experience in developing unmanned systems. She has championed unmanned systems across all domains of air, ground, undersea and sea surface. Weiss has served on AUVSI's Board of Directors, is on the Technical Advisory Board of the nation's Robotics Technology Consortium, and chairs the international ASTM standard on UUV autonomy and control.
The Operations Award will be presented to John McGagh, head of Innovation, Technology and Innovation at Rio Tinto. Under his guidance, Rio Tinto Innovation manages the company's flagship Mine of the Future program. Since 2009, Rio Tinto Iron Ore has operated a fleet of five autonomous Komatsu trucks continuously and around the clock at their West Angelas mine in remote West Australia, with zero lost-time injuries.
The mine's remote location (more than 800 miles from Perth, the nearest large city) and pattern of summer cyclones, torrential rainfall and extensive flooding present monumental obstacles. Under these conditions, safely operating a fleet of unmanned, 576 metric-ton trucks - including their interactions with manned support vehicles such as graders, dozers, drills, water trucks and light vehicles - has required a complete rewrite of the mining rule book.