Public research university Imperial College London is adding a new 1.25 million British Pounds ($1.98 million) facility dedicated specifically to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab will consist of a two-story building with teaching facilities for undergraduates and postgraduates, a workshop for manufacturing UAVs, and an enclosed arena for safely carrying out test flights.
It will also be one of only a handful of facilities in the world that will be able to test hybrid UAVs that can fly and then dive into water, the university says.
Located at the South Kensington Campus, the research laboratory is being funded by a donation from Brahmal Vasudevan, an Imperial alumnus and founder/CEO of a private equity firm in Malaysia.
The flight arena will include technology such as 16 high-speed 3D aerial tracking cameras that will wirelessly control how the robots fly and also record their flight dynamics, which will be fed in real time back to computers. A further eight 3D tracking cameras will be positioned in a water tank to test the combination UAVs as they dive into and swim through the water.
The lab will also bring the testing facilities into closer proximity with manufacturing facilities at the college. These workshops have 3D printers and laser micromachining equipment, which is used to fabricate components, making construction of the aerial robots more efficient. Imperial College London also expects the lab to lead to more and varied collaborations between people across different scientific and engineering disciplines at the college and across the U.K.
“Aerial robotics has the potential to become an important industry in the U.K, but we need world-beating teaching and research infrastructure to make this a reality,” says Mirko Kovac, director of the Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab. “Ultimately, we are aiming to develop flying robots that could improve the way companies do business, save lives and help to protect our environment.”
Construction of the lab will begin in 2016.
Photo courtesy of Imperial College London and Rob Sidall