Imperial College London will build a £1.25m facility to develop and test autonomous flying robots.
The construction of the state-of-the-art laboratory at the university’s South Kensington Campus will be funded through a donation from Imperial’s Malaysian alumnus Brahmal Vasudevan, whose name the lab will carry.
“Aerial robotics has a tremendous range of applications, and Imperial is well-equipped to play a pivotal role in this nascent industry,” said Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London.
“Brahmal Vasudevan’s generosity and vision will allow our students, academics and industrial partners to rapidly advance research and innovation in this exciting field.
The global market value of unmanned aerial robot manufacturing is expected to reach an estimated $89bn (£56bn) in the next ten years. These robots have a range of potential applications including search and rescue, wildlife conservation and inspection and repair of industrial facilities, particularly in hazardous environments.
The two-storey Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab will be located on the roof of the City and Guilds building and will provide teaching facilities for undergraduates and postgraduates and house a workshop for manufacturing aerial robots and an enclosed test flight arena.
“The Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab will be a focal point for our aerial robotics research and education activities,” said Professor Jeff Magee, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. “We also want this facility to be a place for prospective students and school children to visit, inspiring them to become future aeronautical engineers.”
The flight arena will include a section for testing hybrid aerial robots that can fly and dive into water. Currently there are only a few facilities around the world that allow testing of such amphibious robots. Such technology, however, could in the future revolutionise maritime search and rescue operations.
The test arena will be equipped with 16 high-speed 3D aerial tracking cameras enabling wireless monitoring and control of the robots. A further eight 3D tracking cameras will be located in a water tank, to test the amphibious robots as they switch from the airborne to the waterborne configuration.
Construction of the Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab will begin in 2016.