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Research project develops collision avoidance technology for drones

The infrared camera module built by the University’s Institute of Aerospace Technologies.

The infrared camera module built by the University’s Institute of Aerospace Technologies.

Technology that can enable drones to ‘sense and avoid’ collisions with aircraft has been successfully designed, built and de­veloped in Malta in a project involving the University of Malta’s Institute of Aerospace Technologies, local tech company Hawk Aerospace and Idox Health, formerly 6pm plc.

‘Sense and avoid’ is a term used for technologies that combine the use of advanced sensors such as cameras and electronic components to allow a aircraft that may be on collision course to take evasive action to avoid it. Although the technology is widely available for large manned aircraft, it is still generally unavailable for drones due to their size. The two-year Sagro project, which started in 2015, sought to develop technology that could detect, classify and track obstacles in real time from the drones themselves.

Around €200,000 of the pro­ject budget was provided by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST).

Hawk Aerospace was mainly involved in providing design input based on its aviation/drone expertise as well as the flight testing. Idox Health handled the development of the core software, while the Institute of Aerospace Technologies built two of the on-board sensors components.

Hawk Aerospace chief operating officer Roger Archer said: “The key value of the project was in the knowledge and expertise gained in building and developing sense and avoid technologies.”

Hawk Aerospace is now further developing the technology so that it can be commercialised in the marketplace for use on commercial drones.

For further information e-mail info@hawkaerospace.eu.

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