JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – A Naval Air Systems Command engineer has been named the Department of Defense Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter for his research in using robotics to optimize workload and increase safety for Sailors on the flight deck.
Dr. James Hing, robotics science and technology engineer with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, was awarded Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2017.
“As a recognized expert and leader in the field of robotics, your use of everyday, affordable hardware solutions that reduce workload and implement efficiencies in Navy and Marine Corps operational environments is particularly noteworthy,” read the award announcement from the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
The DoD Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter award recognizes extraordinary service by DoD scientists and engineers with less than 15 years of government experience.
“Dr. Hing is the first employee to receive this award from across all of NAVAIR and I am proud of his innovation and dedication in using science and technology to develop solutions for the Warfighter,” said Ms. Kathleen P. Donnelly, SES, director of the NAVAIR Support Equipment and Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Department. “His research in robotics can make a difference in the daily lives of our Sailors on the flight deck by taking them out of harm’s way, allowing them to focus on the mission first and improving their work-life balance. This award is truly deserved.”
Hing has been with NAWCAD Lakehurst since 2010 and has helped shaped the robotics program from the ground up. Receiving his bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Drexel University, Hing recalls it was a NAVAIR display at a Drexel Career Fair that connected him to the command.
“My thesis was on developing mixed reality for unmanned air vehicle piloting and training evaluation, kind of an augmented reality approach, and so from there I was finishing up my PHD and had no plans to find a job until after I defended my thesis,” said Hing. “I noticed that there was a Drexel Career Fair coming through. The way my laboratory was situated, the career fair was right in the lobby and my laboratory was next to the lobby so I thought ‘I might as well check it out.’”
What started as a two-person robotics team at NAWCAD Lakehurst led to the founding of the Robotics Intelligence Systems Engineering, or RISE, Laboratory in 2014, for which Hing serves as lab manager.
The RISE lab’s mission is to determine how robotic capabilities can be applied to carrier deck operations and Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment and Support Equipment, or ALRE/SE.
“We look at how we can apply the benefits of robotics, the benefits of autonomy and artificial intelligence to addressing some of the current needs of the ALRE and SE missions,” said Hing. “We apply robotics to different taskings to try to improve efficiency, optimize workload and improve safety.”
Hing recently submitted papers to peer-reviewed journals and conferences on research demonstrating the capability of multi-robotic vehicle control by a single operator.
For example, Hing and his team are looking at how robotics can assist with weapons movement on the flight deck by having one operator control multiple robotic systems to move weapon skids, rather than two to three Sailors having to physically move each one of them.
This frees up Sailors from monotonous and sometimes dangerous tasks, and allows them to prioritize their work elsewhere, he said.
“We’re focused on the carrier deck, so anything we can do to reduce the number of Sailors needing to be out on the deck at any moment is really what drives our proposals and projects,” said Hing.
Hing looks forward to demonstrating this research further, and sees its potential applicability to not only the ALRE/SE mission but to programs across NAVAIR, the Navy and DoD.
“While a lot of the research has been for my projects, leading as principle investigator, there’s no way I would have been successful with the outcomes of all this without the technical support from my colleagues and the support for the RISE Lab vision from leadership,” said Hing. “I love having the ability to work on exactly what I find interesting, and also to have this strong team behind me, working on things that we love to do. Like they say you always want to try to make sure that your work is something that you love. I feel like I found that here.”
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