The impact of Steve Hottman’s work is wide ranging, from helping protect our servicemen and servicewomen stationed overseas to monitoring environmental conditions in Alaska. As senior deputy director of the Physical Science Laboratory at New Mexico State University, Hottman is in charge of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center (FTC). There, university faculty and staff research, develop, test and evaluate unmanned aircraft systems, which are capable of a wide range of military and civilian functions, including combat, search and rescue, tracking marine mammals, assessing forest fires and gathering climate data.
“Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) enable the utilization of technology and limited resources to the best advantage,” Hottman explains. “The FTC is a 15,000-square-mile national resource for developers of unmanned aircraft.”
Hottman and his team are researching ways to address the challenges that come with the vehicles.
“With UAS, you’re looking to detect, sense and avoid other users in your airspace,” Hottman said. “You don’t have a pilot onboard, so one focus of our work is on technologies to replace the human visual monitoring system.”
NMSU operates the only UAS FTC authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a variety of unmanned aircraft in national airspace. The one-of-a-kind FTC provides opportunities for testing that promise to expand UAS capabilities. Recently, NMSU hosted the first flight ever of a solar-powered unmanned aircraft in the national airspace.
The 21st Century Aerospace mission also includes research initiatives and programs in the areas of lighter-than-air ballooning, ballistics, missiles/rockets, antennas and electromagnetics, and telemetry products and solutions. NMSU provides a wide variety of technical support during launches, including planning and coordination among support elements, coordination with White Sands Missile Range and range surveillance.
Hottman is the senior deputy director for New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory (PSL), director of the UAS Technical Analysis and Applications Center and leader of PSL’s 21st Century Aerospace domain. Currently a doctoral candidate in engineering psychology at NMSU, he graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in industrial engineering, with a specialization in human factors.
Busy Skies, Busy University
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PSL's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sits near a runway at the Las Cruces International Airport during test operations.
An Aerolite Unmanned Aircraft on takeoff roll; the black ball mounted under the fuselage is a camera turret.