Drones to take centre stage as aviation students show off work

Issue date: 25 February 2016

Drone in flight

Drones piloted by students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) will take flight at a popular visitor attraction in the city at the weekend.

Visitors to At-Bristol Science Centre on Saturday and Sunday (Feb 27 and 28) will get an opportunity to see radio controlled quadcopters of varying sizes in action inside a special drone arena manned by UWE Bristol students and staff.

Some 35 students and academics will stage a two-day residency at the interactive science centre in the Harbourside as part of At-Bristol's Meet the Expert series of events.

Visitors will be able to watch drones in flight inside a mesh-clad arena on the first floor, meet avionics researchers and students, and even have a go at flying one of the two dozen unmanned aerial vehicles on show.

Steve Wright, a Senior Lecturer in Avionics and Aircraft Systems at UWE Bristol, said the aerospace engineering students involved had made modifications to drones and written software to control them as part of their studies.

He said: “We have one which can track targets, for example, a red line on the floor. Others have been modified – we have one with hooks on it which can pick up and drop off cargo. We've got some with ultrasonic sensors on them – one can stop automatically if it is approaching a wall to prevent a crash. Visitors might also see two drones being flown around chasing one another.

“This event is well timed because all the aviation projects at UWE are coming together to a spectacular climax and we want to show them off. We're hoping to put on spectacular sessions on Saturday and Sunday.”

Steve, a former avionics engineer, said the event would showcase the innovative work of UWE Bristol students.

He said: “We will be demonstrating the up-and-coming technology which the UWE students are engaging in. Lots of our avionics students go on to work at companies such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce. Those are big players in aerospace and we already have lots of contacts with them.

“Here at UWE, as with most universities involved working with drones, we are initially capturing the fast-and-fun aspects of the whole movement. However, we are then moving on to the advanced aspects of the technology that we can and must address in order to take things on to an industrial level.”

Admission to the drone sessions – which are recommended for people aged seven and above and will be held between 10am and 4pm on both days – will be included with a general admission ticket to At-Bristol. For further information about At-Bristol, please visit www.at-bristol.org.uk or call 0117 915 1000 (Mon-Fri, 9-5).

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