School of Information Studies (iSchool) assistant professor Yang Wang and his cross-campus team have been awarded a grant from the University’s Office of Research to explore the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in energy audits of buildings. 

The funding comes from a portion of the initial phase of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative, as well as supplemental funding from the Office of Research. Central New York was one of three Upstate regions awarded $500 million in 2015 for various projects as part of the initiative. Additional funding may be available for successful projects during the next phase of the initiative, beginning in May.

Wang’s project, one of 6 from across campus that received grants, is titled Heat Mapping Drones: Building Envelope Energy Performance and Privacy Diagnostics Using Unmanned Aerial Systems. It received just over $43,000 in funding.

Along with Wang, the project also involves assistant professor Tarek Rakha from the School of Architecture, and associate professor Senem Velipasalar from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Their project will employ a UAS platform equipped with thermal cameras to conduct rapid building envelope performance diagnostics and perform aerial assessment mapping of building energy, looking for areas of heat loss. This platform will help to maximize energy savings and improvements in building performance. 

“Energy audits like these have traditionally been done manually by human inspectors and can be time-consuming and error-prone,” explained Wang. “This project is an exciting application of UAS technology to the energy and sustainability domain.” 

Of particular interest to Wang in this research is the privacy aspect. 

“Since the cameras mounted on the UAS could capture and identify humans, these might cause privacy violations,” he said. “My focus on this research project is to conduct a privacy impact assessment of the UAS system and work towards ways to enhance its privacy awareness and protection.”

While Wang’s past research efforts have been related to the privacy issues of UAS in general, this research allows him to closely examine the privacy risks of a concrete, innovative UAS application. 

More information about the other five UAS projects selected for funding is available on the Syracuse University News website.