Two hi-tech SMEs are joining forces to develop next-generation drone flight by improving UAV safety and commercial viability. The SafeZone project is part of the Future Flight Challenge, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and designed to position the UK as a world leader in the third aviation revolution.
SafeZone will make drone flight safer by creating a data service that provides real-time information about aerodynamic hazards in urban environments. This world-first project harnesses the cutting-edge technical expertise of Zenotech and Flare Bright respectively and the power of data sharing, machine learning, simulation, and validation.
Zenotech provides computer-simulated (CFD) data, which can then be used in the Flare Bright digital twin software. The data from Flare Bright’s ground-breaking wind-measuring nano-drone can then validate Zenotech’s CFD model.
SafeZone is designed to resolve the challenge of gaining highly resolved wind data for areas where airflow patterns may vary widely due to large buildings, such as the urban landscape, industrial areas, or airport zones. Such data is critical for safety, planning, and UAV traffic management.
Zenotech is modelling winds in these environments and validating them using new tools and technologies, such as the AIRSIGHT data service. This new service from Zenotech helps to automate route planning and collision avoidance, allowing modern drones to navigate around aerodynamic hazards, for instance, near wind farms or large buildings at airports.
The AIRSIGHT model is based on high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics simulations combined with live weather data to generate dynamic information to avoid hazards and fly safely. Large datasets are computed for each site and streamed to route planning software or directly to drones in operation.
Flare Bright develops drone software using machine learning digital twin technology. In addition to supplying support for GPS-denied flight and GPS spoofing capability, this provides accurate and versatile wind measurement in any drone with software adapted for it. Acting as a mobile anemometer, the high-fidelity data measured by the drone can be used to validate the AIRSIGHT model to improve in-flight control.
SafeZone has already gathered successful results from flight trials at Cardiff Airport, St Athan Airport, and on wind farms. The project partners are now working with the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Standards Institution to further develop the technical and regulatory requirements for the safe operation of drones.
David Standingford, Director and Co-founder, Zenotech commented:
“Zenotech is delighted to be working in partnership with Flare Bright on SafeZone to create a live data service to enable a viable commercial and safe use of UAVs in urban environments. The test results have been outstanding so far – a testament to this exciting collaboration between two SMEs bringing their respective expertise to create a new vitally important service. We look forward to moving the SafeZone project on to the next stage and contributing to the future of flight in the UK and globally.”
Carl Sequeira, Head of Engineering, FlareBright, said:
“We’re now into the 3rd year of working with Zenotech on this cutting-edge project and both companies have helped each other to develop exciting new products. We believe the capabilities developed will be a key enabler for the future of safe unmanned aviation, and will help grow this expertise within the UK, leading to a worldwide export capability.”
SafeZone has won two rounds of successful funding to develop next-generation drone flight through the Future Flight Challenge, and in the second stage of the project, Zenotech and Flare Bright were joined by Cranfield University and Cardiff Airport. To support the general use of the capability, Cranfield University is developing a risk assessment model based on the behaviour of different drones in variable wind conditions.