Research that could fast track the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in civil airspace could lead to a greater use of the technology in disaster situations, according to the backers of Project ResQu.
The $7 million project is aimed at fast-tracking research into fitting UAVs with smart technology to sense and avoid other aircraft and land safely in an emergency, helping to make it safer for UAVs to operate in civil airspace and assist with disaster relief and other operations.
The research is being conducted by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in conjunction with Boeing Research & Technology-Australia, Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific and the CSIRO.
“There is significant potential for use of UAVs for other land-based civilian applications if we can get appropriate technology and processes in place for management of the airspace,” said Insitu Pacific managing director Andrew Duggan.
ARCAA director Associate Professor Duncan Campbell says that the research could lead to the regular use of UAVs for disaster relief and other civil applications.
“Because they can fly for extended periods of time in conditions considered too dangerous for manned aircraft, they are ideally suited to search and rescue activities as well as flood mapping, conducting damage assessments and delivering aid to remote communities,” he said.
The research is expected to conclude by mid 2014, with the aim of being able to make recommendations to CASA as part of its review of regulations on UAVs, which will be completed by the end of 2014. With the regulations in place, it is expected that UAVs may be used more widely in civil airspace to carry out a number of missions, including during disaster scenarios.
Project ResQu is being financially supported by Boeing Research & Technology-Australia ($2 million) and Insitu Pacific ($718,000), QUT ($1.9 million) CSIRO ($1 million) and the Queensland Government ($2 million).