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University of Dundee Contributes to Urban UAV Project

Michael Behr

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University of Dundee UAV data

Dundee University provided the project with an interface to make it easier to control UAVs when flying in urban environments.

The University of Dundee, in collaboration with UK simulation company Zenotech, has performed simulation work to help develop next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Dundee’s Dr Kieran Baxter and colleagues from the 3DVisLab at the university’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design worked with Zenotech to characterise the aerodynamic environment around buildings and cityscapes using extremely large-scale airflow modelling.

Wind and air movements found in urban environments are different to those experienced by conventional aircraft, providing a unique challenge for UAVs. This data will provide information for the routing and operation of autonomous air vehicles, effectively and safely offering greater insight into wind conditions.

Dr Baxter, a specialist in interactive visualisation of 3D environment data, led work on a prototype that integrated Zenotech’s airflow simulation with a visualisation interface developed at Dundee. The 3DVisLab developed an immersive interface to improve situational awareness when flying UAVs in complex environments.

Dr Kieran Baxter said: “It is important for us to understand how new generations of data will inform not only autonomous systems but also the human operators behind them.

“We were privileged to work with Zenotech to demonstrate how their state-of-the-art airflow modelling data can be effectively visualised for the end user. Through our continued collaboration we hope to answer key questions surrounding the implications of emerging UAV technologies.”

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The two groups were working together as part of a project that emerged from research funded by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).

DASA awarded the contracts earlier this year part of a group of 21 projects which received £2.1 million to improve how autonomous vehicles and systems operate in challenging environments.

The two teams had not met before embarking on the project, and the Covid-19 restrictions necessitated that they exchange data remotely.

However, this did not stop them from working together to deliver a new set of results for the programme.

These results were presented to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the sponsoring organisation, at the programme’s final review meeting.

James Sharpe, Zenotech lead for big data and security, said: “We are delighted to have participated in this partnership with the University of Dundee to extend the results of our respective DASA-funded projects. The outcomes of this research will help drive forward the next generation of UAVs as well as develop our tech products for new, innovative applications. We look forward to extending this successful collaboration in the future.”

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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