The University of Southampton makes extensive use of UAVs for teaching and research in Engineering and Environmental Science. Each year many UAVs are built as Group and Individual Projects. The UAVs are flown at our sports field, at Draycott Farm, or at Thorney Island.
Teams from Southampton have been very successful in the IMechE UAS Challenge, winning in 2015 and runners-up in 2016 and 2017.
Southampton has participated in a number of multinational UAV developments and is the only non-US member of the FAA’s ASSURE consortium.
The University obtained EPSRC funding to acquire and equip a light aeroplane to be used as a research platform. Through discussion with the CAA and the LAA it was agreed that the best approach to approval was to use the normal LAA system.
The near-term objectives for the aeroplane are:
(1) to fly a package of UAV systems beyond visual range (BVR) to demonstrate navigation, communication, and transponder functionality and reliability in support of the Safety Case for UAV BVR operations
(2) to accompany UAV on BVR flights to provide visual tracking and an intervention capability
(3) to provide a platform for other research activities such as environmental imagery and sampling
(4) to be used as a teaching resource, such as by relating data gathered in flight to classroom examples of loading actions, performance, and stability.
Selection criteria for the aeroplane included trailerability on UK roads, ease of accommodating research equipment, and slow flight capability. The chosen aeroplane is a TLAC Scout with a Rotax 912 engine. The aeroplane has a tricycle undercarriage for ease of operation. Several mods are being developed to suit the aeroplane to its roles, including the installation of a 19” rack and additional ground plane areas on the fuselage. The aeroplane is being built at the TLAC factory by volunteers from the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment under the guidance of TLAC staff.
The aeroplane is included in the national register of research assets and can be used for non-commercial research by other entities.