TAMU-CC Computer Science Department Awarded $600K NSF Grant for Emergency Communication using UAVs

Dr. Mehdi Sookhak is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Sookhak received his Ph.D. in computer science with a focus on cybersecurity from the University of Malaya, Malaysia. He then joined the University of Ottawa, Canada as a post-doctoral research fellow in electrical engineering for three years. Sookhak has worked for TAMU-CC since 2021, and he received a $600K funding award for his National Science Foundation research proposal, "Multi-Tiered, Multi-Task Base Station Infrastructure for Communication-Denied Environments.”     

“The project will assist with emergency communication, but also delivering packages with unmanned aerial vehicles, so it's a very novel optimization,” Sookhak said.  

Sookhak's research focuses on enhancing emergency communication in situations where traditional cell phone towers are unavailable. While previous efforts used battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for this purpose, their limited flight time (about an hour) posed challenges. Sookhak's innovation involves deploying trucks equipped with 5G antennas to disaster locations, connecting them to UAVs. This approach extends the UAVs' flight time and reduces costs, as they are stationed at the disaster site instead of flying to it. Although the UAVs need to maintain a specific distance from the truck for connectivity, the combined use of trucks and UAVs significantly expands coverage and duration, making UAVs more effective for emergency cellular communication.  

Sookhak began writing his research proposal in August 2022 and submitted the proposal in February 2023. Sookhak’s proposal was one of 10 Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) research proposals chosen by the NSF. This achievement reflects the hard work and determination Sookhak has put into his research.      

“When I first submitted my research proposal to NSF, it was rejected,” Sookhak said. “At first, I was disappointed because I believed that the idea was very novel and important. But, after reading the comments and suggestions, I realized it was a good lesson to not overcompensate with so many ideas in one research proposal. It just takes one good idea to be enough for a great research proposal.” 

TAMU-CC Computer Science Department Awarded $600K NSF Grant for Emergency Communication using UAVs

Slideshow of TAMU-CC Computer Science Department Researchers