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Green Skies: A Better Environment for Air Travel

Hillol Kargupta logs thousands of frequent flier miles each year to do research, conduct business for a successful, global firm and to visit his family. But it was his quest to make those flights friendlier to the environment that recently won him a highly competitive IBM Innovation Award and a $20,000 grant.

Kargupta, an associate professor of computer science, is an expert on deep data mining in mobile environments. He is also the founder and president of Agnik, a company that pioneered the use of sensor technology to improve efficiency in ground transportation.

Now he’s looking to take his research and business skyward. And when the European Union includes aviation pollution in its ambitious cap-and-trade emissions market system next year, Kargupta hopes his sensors will analyze the data that makes skies greener in the EU and around the world.

“Every second of flight burns about a gallon of fuel.” says Kargupta. Airplanes already have sensors that monitor and adjust fuel/air ratios to yield the best fuel economy, he observes, but analyzing that data for emissions purposes “is a chance to meet a real market need.”

The available information is staggering. New York’s JFK Airport, says Kargupta, produces a continuous stream of about 100 megabytes of data per minute. “Multiply that times all the world’s airports,” he continues, “and it equals a huge amount of data changing rapidly over a large area.”

Kargupta is enthusiastic about the daunting task, however: “It’s just the type of challenge we like at UMBC.”

In addition to his research and business success, Kargupta is also a dedicated mentor. His former graduate students have gone on to careers at NASA, Columbia University, IBM, New Mexico State University and Haifa University, Israel.

(2/20/09)