Funding given to uni for aircraft project

A project which hopes to improve the reliability of unmanned aircraft used to assess disaster zones has received hundreds of thousands of pounds to get it off the ground.

The ‘New Foundational Structures for Engineering Verified Multi-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ project was awarded funding worth £650,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The project, which is a partnership between the University of Bedfordshire and the University of Oxford, aims to improve the reliability of unmanned aircraft which are used to fly over disaster zones, assessing the damage and looking for survivors.

An example of this was the earthquake and tsunami in Japan which damaged the Fukushima nuclear plants, which meant thousands of people had to be evacuated. A month later, a small aerial vehicle flew over the sight to assess the damage to the plant, by taking photos and video footage.

Dr Sonia Waharte, a lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Bedfordshire who is part of the project said: “It’s very exciting as there is a real need for this research and it will be useful for many applications, not just search and rescue.

“This project is unique as it brings together researchers in logic, verification and control systems. I’m looking forward to getting together and getting started.”

Professor James Crabbe, the Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science (CATS), said: “I am thrilled that Sonia’s project, so important in disaster situations, has received this grant.

“It shows the ever-increasing strength and depth of our Department of Computer Science & Technology, in research as well as in teaching and learning.”

The project, which is due to get underway in March, will look into making unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) more reliable so they can operate without being controlled by a remote operator on the ground.