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Dr Kieran Wood

Unmanned Aerial Systems in Extreme Environments

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), a.k.a. ‘drones’ are quickly becoming a useful research tool with many applications for environmental monitoring. My research focuses on the design and operations of UAS in environments that are inhospitable to life: at this time volcanic and nuclear sites. Long-range UAS are an ideal solution to monitoring and surveying in these situations since a human operator can remain in a safe location while the vehicle is at risk. My previous Ph.D. work focused on autonomous indoor flight for small multi-rotor type vehicles, whilst my current post-doc role explores the use of both larger multi-rotors and fixed-wing types.

For effective monitoring at long-range in extreme environments, the vehicle must be semi-independent; able to operate with minimal human supervision. This presents a significant control and automation challenge since measurement payloads are most effective when in close proximity to their target. I investigate the vehicle design and control algorithms needed to reliably and accurately position the vehicle and its sensor payload.

A key part of my work is enabling safe beyond visual line-of-site (BVLOS) flights. This is achieved through regular outdoor flight testing and field applications. Updates from my research and flight operations can be found on Twitter @DrKieranWood.