The UAV has to take off and land safely and manoeuvre easily. Military UAV systems are very expensive, so one of the things the team have produced is an autopilot that is very cheap compared with military technology. Keeping costs low is a priority, ‘you could imagine a farmer being able to afford a small UAV to keep an eye on his crops and survey his land,’ says Scanlan. ‘He can’t afford to spend £2million on a system but he might be able to afford £10,000.’
Their department has just launched an MSc course for overseas students to design a UAV from idea to prototype. Their work will include developing monitoring systems for weather, pollution, disasters, enhancing power structures. As Scanlan says, the ultimate goal is to produce bespoke, affordable UAVs, which do useful jobs for people.