The new UAV centre is primarily intended to improve cooperation between researchers in the field of UAV – also known as drone – technology. 'At the UT, there are several research groups working on the use of drones for very different applications. So far, all these researchers have not cooperated fully with each other', explains Nex, associate professor at ITC. And collaboration is important, he says. ‘Competition is growing and to be more competitive in the market, we need researchers to work together.’
As a result of this lack of collaboration between different departments at the university, 'researchers were upset that drone research was not better organised and structured', says Nex. To improve this collaboration, the UAV Centre aims to 'combine the expertise of groups at ITC with other research groups within the UT, such as robotics, electrical engineering and computer science’. ‘Since UAV technology involves many different research areas, collaborating is more beneficial in UAV technology than in other fields’, says Nex.
In addition to research, the UAV Centre also offers drone training courses. UAV mapping is one of the topics covered in these courses. UAV mapping courses provide an understanding of how UAV mapping is used for various applications, such as in agriculture to improve food security. 'We combine different kinds of expertise that helps us create advanced and specific training,' explains Nex. ‘This type of training is designed to allow the centre to address the needs of a company or people in a country with unique problems for which drones can be the solution.’
Disaster mapping and food security
The UAV Centre's research and training efforts cover a range of environmental and safety issues that can be improved with the help of drones, explains Nex. ‘One example is disaster mapping, where after a disaster, search and rescue teams use drones to identify areas where they can intervene.’ Drones are also suitable for entering buildings at risk of collapse. In addition, drones are also important for food security, as they are increasingly used in agriculture ‘when, for example, the health of large crops needs to be assessed.’
The UAV Centre is still in its early stages, but the researchers are trying to establish new collaborations with multiple universities and other potential partners. ‘We are in the process of setting up collaborations with universities in Africa, Latin America and Asia. We want to build partnerships with people outside the university and grow within the university.’