Projects

Projects

Projects overview

As a research team, we are involved in many projects and collaborations. This page aims to provide an insight to some of the active and completed projects that we are (or have been) participants. Please click on a project title from the grid below to find out more information, or just scroll down and have a read.

Projects in detail...

FIREDRONE

FIREDRONE

Industrial fires and wildfires are a risk within the Channel area given that it has a population of around 27.5 million and a large industrial sector, where dangerous substances may be used or stored in large quantities.

In total, there are 289 industrial sites in France and 150 industrial sites in the UK which are part of the Channel region and have been identified as potentially dangerous for the population and environment in case of a major accident. This is due to the use of dangerous chemicals, which is unavoidable and vital in a modern industrialised society.

In particular large-scale fires involving these dangerous chemicals pose a significant threat to humans and the environment and results in huge economic costs. The smoke generated by these fires exists of particles named black carbon or soot. Their precise and rapid monitoring is crucial for saving health and lives. However, there is currently no tool available that is sufficiently responsive, safe and inexpensive to be routinely used during fire response operations.

In this context, the FIREDRONE project will increase the safety, speed and accuracy of firefighters’ response to industrial fires and wildfires by developing a compact airborne robotic system for live monitoring dangerous emissions in smoke, as well as by designing its operational procedures and providing demonstrations to fire emergency services.

The system will be developed in close cooperation with experts in drone operations and end-users, such as fire brigades and training centres.

The novel device will analyse particles in fire smoke 90% faster and 80% cheaper than current equivalent solutions while providing more accurate data. The project will publish its results widely and ensure they are accessible to enable other regions to benefit.

(Text has been taken from channelmanche.com/firedrone-project/. More information can be found on their website.)

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CASCADE

CASCADE

CASCADE (Complex Autonomous aircraft Systems Configuration, Analysis and Design Exploratory) is the largest UK research project focused on unmanned aircraft. It is a collaboration between the University of Southampton and four of the top universities in the field of unmanned systems.

The goal of CASCADE is to accelerate the exploitation of aerial robotics across a wide range of science and industry applications. Through fundamental research and case studies, CASCADE will advance the understanding and technologies required to allow routine operation of advanced aerial robotic systems. Common system architectures are being developed and employed together with their associated risk and reliability models.

The project combines research activities summarised in six thematic areas (Safety, Autonomy, Capability, Scalability, Agility, and Integration) with practical case studies demonstrations that meet the needs of current and emerging users of aerial robots linked to the CASCADE partnership. The project aims to shape the technological and regulatory standards upon which a safe, commercially and scientifically vibrant industry can grow.

More information about CASCADE is available at cascadeuav.com. CASCADE is funded by the EPSRC. Individual case studies benefit from the additional support of industrial sponsors.

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AVM

AVM

Continuous monitoring of volcanic activity is extremely valuable for both scientific and safety reasons. The use of unmanned aircraft allows the scientist to perform measures while keeping a safe distance from the eruptions.

However, the current long-range remote sensing activities are significantly restricted due to the lack of suitable operations sites in the vicinity of many of the most active volcanoes in the world, such as the Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala.

The use of fully autonomous field-based VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) capabilities would transform the long-term sensing capabilities, both within Guatemala and similar regions. However, current VTOL platforms don’t offer sufficient range, endurance and payload capabilities to perform these missions.

The AVM (Autonomous Volcano Monitoring) project will allow Soton UAV to work in partnership with the University of Bristol to solve and refine the challenges of operating these platforms in the field and to further develop a partnership started with the CASCADE project. The long-term aim of this work is to develop a low-cost, long-endurance VTOL platform that will enable the local scientists at INSIVUMEH (National Institute of Volcanology of Guatemala) a to operate these vehicles using local expertise.

The primary goal of the AVM effort will, therefore, be the automation of the take-off and landing phases of long-range fixed-wing platforms, which currently require extensive human intervention and are the primary source of current unreliability.

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Turner-Kirk UAV Research Support Programme

Turner-Kirk UAV Research Support Programme

One of the main aspirations of Soton UAV is to develop technology that can help protect communities, the environment, and the endangered fauna. Using unmanned aircraft, we can deploy sensors in remote and difficult to access locations, helping scientists and environment-agencies to collect the data necessary for prevention and protection of the environment. We do this by monitoring forest fires in the Amazon, volcanos in Central America, and wildlife in Africa.

The Turner-Kirk UAV research support programme provides the resources to our researchers and students to explore innovative technological solutions to fly these missions in the most challenging of these environments. We are deeply grateful for this philanthropic gift, which encourages further engagement with this critical agenda.

Ewan Kirk

I am delighted to be supporting the research and development of fixed wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with a view to using them for surveillance purposes in conservation and anti-poaching environments. I was inspired to consider whether a drone with a long flying time could patrol a wide area to help in areas like the Kalahari Desert where rhino in particular are under threat. I was impressed by the knowledge and expertise of the UAV team here at Southampton and am pleased to be funding such an interesting and forward-thinking engineering project. Ewan Kirk

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ULTRA

ULTRA

ULTRA (Unmanned Low cost TRansport Aircraft) is UK’s largest civilian unmanned aircraft. Weighing in at 350kg fully loaded, it has been specifically designed for long range cargo transport missions. The airframe has been designed to operate from unprepared airfields with minimal infrastructure and as such uses well proven fabric covered aluminium construction for maximum robustness against the elements. Its lifting wing body fuselage has been designed to be as easy to load and unload as an estate car featuring hinged rear access to the payload bay. In addition the aircraft can be equipped with payload releasing mechanism to deploy the cargo for remote resupply or delivery missions.

Electronically ULTRA employs novel distributed architectures, whereby each safety critical component of the aircraft has either mechanical or electrical redundancy built in from the onset. This design philosophy has been inherited from the Spotter airframe in in order to minimise any single points of failure.

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Peregrin

Peregrin

PEREGRIN is a UAV that combines a short take-off capability with efficient cruise by virtue of an innovative internal combustion – electric hybrid powertrain.

The British Antarctic Survey plans to operate the RSS Sir David Attenborough, an advanced polar research vessel commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council to perform research in polar regions. One of the planned features of the ship is to have the capability to deploy remotely operated vehicles and autonomous platforms, including small, low cost, autonomous underwater vehicles. These are capable of deep dives, but their very short horizontal range and speed limit their usability. Our solution is a UAV capable of delivering these underwater robots to previously unreachable areas in the Arctic ice.

The UAV takes off in less than 25 m using a large wing span with a novel hybrid propulsion system. An Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is used to provide a medium-range capability during cruise. The ICE charges the battery during cruise and powers the electric propulsion system in the wings. With integration of pre-existing payload attachment capabilities, the UAV carries the submarine and parachute (up to 5 kg) and drops the payload over a targeted area. The UAV lands back onto the helideck, aided by the use of an arrester hook and net landing.

For more information see the UOS Design Show 2019 Project Peregrin webpage and the James Dyson Award 2019 Entry.

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Custer UAV

custer

Custer UAV was developed under the Royal Navy requirement for a light aircraft providing over the horizon reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, while being operational from the back of the Type 23 frigate.

The STOL capabilities are facilitated using the Custer channel wing sections with propellers run by 480KV electric brushless motors. The 30cc petrol engine on the nose of the aircraft caters for long flight range and propulsion redundancy. The large tail area with a split elevator is designed to ensure sufficient control authority at low speeds, also providing additional actuators redundancy.

The Southampton Custer UAV uses a pair of Hacker electric motors and controllers linked to a Pixhawk autopilot running a fully customised airframe stabilisation program that mixes the thrust from each duct with the settings of the split elevators, ailerons and rudder to achieve stable flight at very low forward speeds when the ailerons effectiveness is very low. Since the Custer ducts generate lift directly related to the thrust being produced, roll control can be maintained using differential thrust combined with the split elevators, while the large rudders provide yaw control. Note that fully moving elevators positioned in the duct slipstream are used.

As with the other platforms, the airframe is largely made of laser sintered (3D-printed) parts and carbon fibre spars, allowing for fast manufacturing and simple maintenance on-board of the vessels, requiring minimal manual finishing.

The Custer wing duct also known as a channel wing was initially developed by the Custer Channel Wing Corporation in the 1950s’ and the 1960s’. Here it is applied to a small UAV making extensive used of 3D laser printing. Such aircraft are generally not operated from long smooth runways and rarely have complex high lift systems in their wings. By using suitable ducts around the propellers and an advanced control system, startlingly good take-off and landing performance can be achieved.

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OPSARS

OPSARS

The OPSARS (Oceanography and Polar Science through Agile Robotic Systems) Project is a study to determine the feasibility of using a UAV to deploy a small AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle). This enables the AUV to be delivered to precise locations that are prohibitively remote or inaccessible to be reached by research vessels, including cracks in ice sheets.

The potential speed of deployment also makes the system well suited to investigation of oil spills, effects of natural disasters, and other applications where rapid response is paramount. Opportunity for synergy between the UAV and AUV increases the potential capability of the system.

In November 2016 a trial payload release test was carried out over land using a dummy submarine to ensure the AUV release mechanism was functioning correctly. This trial can be seen in the video below.

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Project Albatross

Project Albatross

Following the success of Project Triangle, the Royal Navy were keen to further explore the capabilities of Sulsa by embarking on a far more ambitious set of flight trials. Project Albatross saw Sulsa travel to the Southern Ocean on board the Royal Navy’s icebreaker, HMS Protector, with the aim of providing the ship with information on surrounding sea ice and assessing the system’s performance in harsh Antarctic conditions.

A total of four flights were conducted, two of which were EVLOS (extended visual line of sight), with Sulsa capturing useful footage that contributed to HMS Protector’s situational awareness. The trials showed that Sulsa’s performance was not significantly affected by the freezing temperatures, and that it was able to withstand ditching in the sea after each flight. However, live video feed and ability to recover to the ship were identified as capabilities that would improve the utility of the aircraft.

A short video was created showing footage from this project and can be viewed below. The on-board video was captured using an action camera intergrated in the nose of the airframe. This allowed high definition video of the flights to be recorded.

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Airstart

Airstart

Airstart is a collaborative Research and Development project developing key technologies to support routine small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV, operations Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). Conceived in 2014, the project commenced in November 2015, grant aided by the Aerospace Technology Institute, ATI.

Commercial small UAVs are becoming ubiquitous in our society, in applications from film-making to surveying. However, one issue is seriously limiting their widescale use – the ability to safely and routinely operate and gather information outside of line of sight of the operator. Key activities of significant benefit to society, such as search and rescue, or power utility asset inspection, will only be realised if UAVs can safely operate over longer distances.

By February 2018, with these end-users forming an integral part of the Consortium, AIRSTART seeks to provide a technology basis to achieve both increased societal benefits and economic impact from small UAVs.

(Text was taken from their website before the project ended.)

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Project Triangle

Project Triangle

Project Triangle arose from the Royal Navy's need for a low cost reconnaissance platform that could be easily operated from existing vessels. They also envisage that future ships might be equipped with 3D printers, allowing parts to be manufactured on board and thereby reducing reliance on supply chains. As a result there was particular interest in the University of Southampton's Sulsa UAV, which was the world's first 3D printed aircraft when it first flew in 2011.

A concept capability demonstration was planned to showcase the aircraft's capabilities and test the feasibility of operating it at sea, and on 20th July 2015 Sulsa performed a flight from the River Class patrol vessel, HMS Mersey. Sulsa, which had been modified to include a high definition camera, was launched from the flight deck and performed a successful two and a half minute automatic flight before landing on the nearby Chesil beach. The test was a success, and clearly demonstrated the potential utility of low-cost ship launched UAVs.

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BERISUAS

BERISUAS

In emergencies at sea accurate information is of great importance. With good information at the right time it is possible to make better decisions. Observations from the above give a good view of a calamity. After which further assistance can be offered. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs popular said Drones, can ensure this. To investigate the potential the BERISUAS project was started. The acronym BERISUAS stands for: 'Better Response and Improved Safety through Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

A thematic research project where seven project partners work together under the Interreg IVA 2 Seas Programme. This brings together two Interreg projects (MIRG EU and 3i) to align their activities and build on their results together.

MIRG EU stands for Maritime Incident Response Group. Its main task is to restrain maritime incidents and emergencies at sea. During the 3i project a prototype UAV and mobile ground station was developed. This hardware will be used in the demonstration of the possible assistance using a UAV in combination with MIRG activity’s.

During the first project phase of BERISUAS the benefits of using a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) during a maritime incident were identified. This is the case in many work situations. Not only in the maritime arena but in every environment. During accidents and on regular basis for governments, company’s and civilians. When the UAV system is used for multiple purposes the cost per flight will drop dramatically, to only a fraction of the normal price when using conventional techniques. To address a broader perspective the BERISUAS project we will also address other possibilities for using Unmanned Arial Systems (UAS) besides MIRG teams.

(Text has been taken from www.berisuas.eu. More information can be found on their website.)

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2SEAS-3i

2SEAS-3i

The 3i project aimed to improve maritime safety in the cross-border area (English Channel and southern North Sea) by using new technologies, implementing remotely piloted aircraft or autonomous systems. Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles will allow the creation of a new, cost effective and reliable monitoring service, for maritime safety organizations that border the English Channel and southern North Sea.

The 3i project gathered a consortium of scientific and specialist organizations (Further and Higher Education institutes, SMEs and economic development agencies) and Public Sector bodies (Police, harbour agencies, firefighting and emergency departments). The partners have worked together in research and development activities, to build a joint prototype UAV and performing joint testing and demonstrations.

This cross-border project improved the knowledge on unmanned aircraft for maritime security applications and helped to develop new technology and business opportunities for the 2 Seas area.

(Text has been taken from www.berisuas.eu/3i-2seas-uav. More information can be found on their website.)

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IPANEMA

ipanema

IPANEMA (Indigenous Production of robotic Aircraft using Natural and Environmentally-friendly Materials from the Amazon region) programme is a first, destined to develop environmentally friendly drone engine Made in the Amazon, by Amazonians, for the Amazon.

The project aims to design a drone that Amazonian communities can build and repair with local resources. They will only need to be sent a small pack of electronics and an engine. These drones will be used to detect fires, which will help the people protect the rainforest. As well as this, sensor data from the drone could be sold to generate a small income for the communities.

To find out what materials are available, a few of the project members went to the Amazon Rainforest to live in some of the communities and find out what types of wood were used locally.

Currently the team is preparing to build the first prototype with similar-property materials in Southampton. The project has collaboration with UFAM in Brazil who are developing the payload and the drone automation.

For more information see the IPANEMA crowd funding webpage.

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ICAReS

ICAReS

ICAReS (Innovation Cluster Accelerating Remote Sensing) will develop a cross border innovation cluster and create the necessary conditions for innovation in the field of remote sensing and advanced data communication & processing, based on needs of priority sectors nature, agriculture and water & infrastructure. The project will be led by the Municipality of Woensdrecht (NL) and will bring together 11 partners from England, Belgium and the Netherlands.

(Text has been taken from icaresproject.eu/. More information can be found on their website.)

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