Leader in autonomous systems, Flare Bright, has won two Innovate UK Future Flight grants for projects totalling £418,589.
These are to help create the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test environment in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with trialling precision autonomous drone deliveries (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment, or SATE), and to deliver safe and more effective UAVs by accurately measuring and modelling winds in urban and other challenging environments (Safezone).
These projects will receive a share of £30 million funded by the Future Flight Challenge from UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) Project
SATE is an innovative project which will create the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test environment. There is a need to rapidly decarbonise the aviation sector to reconcile these competing imperatives and to reduce the carbon footprint of air travellers.
Flare Bright’s role in the project is to use its cutting-edge autonomous drone technology to precision deliver medicines, vaccines and other small items to remote communities rapidly, cheaply and without emissions.
The biggest use of energy for any aircraft is taking off and the climb, and for rotary aircraft it is also landing. If you minimise this you will save energy, costs and be more sustainable. Flare Bright are developing the concept of dropping their precision gliding drone, carrying a small payload (of a vaccine, perhaps) from an existing aircraft or even a larger unmanned aircraft.
Having many of Flare Bright’s drones on board means you can deliver to many locations without the expense and energy burn of the larger aircraft needing to climb or descend. It’s like a smart and precision-guided parachute. And the drones themselves get recycled in slow time, very much like glass bottles used to be recycled in shops or with the milkman, which those of a certain vintage will remember.
This is a perfect solution for remote island communities, where there isn’t an easy way to land an aircraft and boat travel is slow.
In the second project, high-tech SMEs Flare Bright and Zenotech have teamed up to deliver a safer and more effective environment for UAVs to fly in for use in urban environments via a new aerodynamic data service. This project will make use of Flare Bright’s existing drone SnapShot, which is fully autonomous, to test winds at many points near buildings and industrial sites at 1 metre resolution, which will validate Zenotech’s computational fluid dynamic models to estimate wind speed. The aim is the creation of a precise map of winds at every location in airports, industrial sites and urban areas to make a safer and more effective environment for UAVs.
SnapShot is key for this project due to its simplicity, robustness and autonomy. No training is required to operate SnapShot as this UAV is ballistically launched and flies autonomously. Equally important is its robustness as it will allow us to perform multiple test flights and “survive” cross winds for example. Weather in general is a great adversary in the drone industry but SnapShot is able to adapt and bypass these adversities due to its robustness and autonomy. SnapShot’s features pair effectively with Zenotech’s computational models and provide a quick and cost effective way of addressing a major obstacle.
This world-first project is supported by Innovate UK as part of the Future Flight programme, as well as the Welsh Government via the direct involvement of Cardiff Airport and Saint Athan Airport as live test sites for the project demonstration campaigns.
Both projects started late in 2020 and will last 18 months.
Led by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, the SATE project brings together a consortium of aviation industry specialists, local Orkney and Caithness businesses, public sector bodies and academia. SATE’s technology partners — Ampaire, ZeroAvia, Loganair, Windracers and FlareBright — will trial a host of exciting new transport options. This will include testing low carbon demonstration flights using electric, hydrogen or synthetic fuel to replace conventional fossil fuels, as well as drone applications for supplying on-demand medical supplies to health centres.
Consortium members will also look at how to implement zero-carbon airport infrastructure using green energy sources, as well as digital networking and the development of resilient communications.
The socio-economic impact of new technologies and services in the region, and the skills and training needed to support them, will be assessed. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Denchi Group, Orkney-based Cloudnet, Air Service Training, University of the Highlands and Islands, The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Orkney Islands Council complete the partnership.
Safezone is in collaboration with Zenotech Ltd, who develop cloud high-performance computing and computational fluid dynamics technology for the aerospace, automotive, civil and renewable energy sectors.