UNT graduate works to protect soldiers in the field through drone research

Since beginning college, University of North Texas student Kelly Jacques wanted to use her engineering talents to minimize the need for soldiers on the battlefield. And now, thanks to a scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense, she is getting her chance.

“I know people in the military risking their lives every day and I’ve always felt that I should give something back to help them,” Jacques said. “That’s why I am interested in research that focuses on improving drones reliability to be used in military applications. I believe the more drones we use, the fewer soldiers will be on the ground. I want to protect people.”

Jacques recently graduated from UNT’s College of Engineering with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. She is the 2020 recipient of the DOD’s SMART (Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation) scholarship that will cover the cost of tuition, books and living expenses as she pursues her Ph.D. She also will participate in summer internships at DOD facilities across the U.S. and, upon graduation, be employed by the DOD.

Jacques specializes in the field of tribology, the study of friction. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has conducted research into developing protective coatings that can be incorporated into the internal mechanics of a drone’s fuel injection system to reduce friction in the system, especially when using a lower quality fuel.

Through this research, Jacques will make drones more efficient. She wants them to stay in the air longer, go farther and fly faster.

“I am focused exclusively on the fuel injection system,” she said. “In a battlefield situation, the types of fuel available for the drones can be inconsistent, which causes a lack of efficiency and increased wear and tear.”

Jacques will begin her graduate studies at UNT this fall. The program will allow her to complete her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in four years after which she can begin employment with the DOD.

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