QUB students develop autonomous aircraft for disaster relief

  • Students from Queen's University Belfast's MEng Aerospace Engineering degree have designed autonomous aircraft drones that can help in disaster relief by delivering vital supplies to disaster victims.

    One of the main problems following a major natural or manmade disaster anywhere in the world is the sheer number of manhours required to provide disaster relief to victims as quickly as possible. In the aftermath of an earthquake or flood, it's important to get an aerial survey of the affected area and deliver supplies such as clean water or medicine to those in need of rescue.

    That's the challenge taken up by groups of students at Queen's University Belfast. As part of the MEng degree in Aerospace Engineering, teams of students were tasked with developing autonomous aircraft from scratch that could deliver two bottles of water and a medical kit to disaster victims automatically. Investing in this kind of technology could help reduce the massive logistical challenges faced by disaster relief organisations, allowing them to rapidly scale up their initial responses.

    Autonomous aircraft also have the added advantage of being able to carry sensors above teh area affected by the disaster, collecting and returning images that can be geotagged and analysed to assist in the disaster relief effort. This may be particularly important for assessing flood damage and finding stranded victims in need of immediate rescue.

    The aircraft designs were tested in Northern Ireland recently and the teams involved will travel to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers UAS challenge in Wales later this month to present their work. The technology will be judged alongside similar innovations from other leading universities across the UK and the rest of Europe.

    Professor Mark Price, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen's University commented on the work: "Design-build activities such as this one are integrated across all of our engineering degree programs. We view this as absolutely vital to ensure our students get experience of working in a team, managing a budget, working with workshop staff, getting pieces manufactured and eventually assembling them. That not only allows them to achieve great things in the course of their study but also prepares them for a career in industry.”

    Source: Queen's University Belfast

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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