Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Mahdi Al-Husseini in his Black Hawk helicopter with Aura by his side.
Aura is a tool designed and built by Al-Husseini, a graduate student in electrical engineering, allows him to track maneuver data dynamically while in flight.
“The idea came about in November 2020,” Al-Husseini said. “A long-time friend of mine and I moved quickly to file a patent application in December, and we began building our first prototype in early January. By April, we had begun our initial flight tests to iterate on and improve the device.”
Aura is the first tool of its kind, and earned Al-Husseini the graduate finalist prize in the Collegiate Inventors Competition.
After submitting an application describing the participants’ inventions, The Collegiate Inventors Competition allows finalists to present their inventions to a panel of National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and United States Patent and Trademark officials. From there, inventions are subject to a final round of judging that determines their placement in either first, second or runner-up.
This is Al-Husseini’s second time in front of these influential inventors as a finalist. As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech in 2019, Al-Husseini presented his invention of a reaction wheel-based stabilization system for helicopter hoist operations.
Not only is Al-Husseini a master’s student, he is also a platoon leader and aeromedical evacuations officer in the 25th Aviation Regiment of the U.S. Army.
“Service has always been important to me – both service to community and country,” he said.
Al-Husseini’s love of aviation and service was inspired by the UH-1 Huey in Vietnam, particularly their aeromedical evacuation missions.
Known as the “workhorse of the Vietnam War”, the UH-1 Huey was a powerful helicopter used primarily for troop and cargo transport, medical evacuations and aerial attack.
“Those daring pilots would regularly put their lives on the line to evacuate wounded Soldiers,” he said. “Today, I follow in that proud legacy as an aeromedical evacuations helicopter pilot (MOS: 67J) flying a HH-60 Black Hawk.”
Al-Husseini is currently working on four other projects all within the aerospace engineering field, including gear that would prevent the nesting of birds in aircraft and a laser-based crowd control system to prevent the tail-side blades of helicopters from striking anything.
“There is no doubt that my time in the Army and in the field executing my mission has allowed me to regularly apply my engineering skills in a meaningful way.”