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9 October, 2018 - 20:08 By Kate Sweeney

Cranfield University ramps autonomous systems capability

Cranfield University has unveiled plans for a world-leading Professorship in Autonomous Systems and AI, sponsored by BAE Systems – a technology leader in this field.

The Professorship will be a research leadership role at the university, bringing together research in UAV’s, Space and artificial intelligence, adding to Cranfield’s leading reputation in the fields of autonomous systems and AI.

Advances in machine learning, high-performance computing, data science, multimodal sensing, and control are merging together to create enormous opportunities for intelligent, autonomous, or semi-autonomous systems. Such artificial intelligence systems are starting to achieve cognitive abilities such as language, attention, and creativity, promising to improve the safety and efficiency of systems for space technology and increasingly autonomous systems in aerospace and aviation.

Julia Sutcliffe, chief technology officer at BAE Systems Air said: “Autonomous systems and artificial intelligence have the potential to provide a substantial positive impact upon product, service, and industrial capabilities. 

“This prestigious appointment, in a growing and highly disruptive field, will enable BAE Systems to exploit the latest technologies in these areas to continuously improve our engineering and manufacturing processes, and give our customers a differentiating capability in the field.”

Professor Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield, added: “Underpinned by our global research airport, Cranfield has a suite of world-leading facilities that support our work in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

“This partnership with BAE Systems is the latest exciting development, and we are delighted to be working with them in an area that will be critically important to the defence and aerospace sectors over the coming years.”

Academics at Cranfield have played substantial roles within a number of autonomy-related programmes and initiatives over recent years. These include: the UK MOD Grand Challenges, Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment, the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre, Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research and the recent, European Defence Agency-funded EuroSWARM programme.

The university is currently working on major research programmes such as the national UAVs Traffic Management system, Incremental Nonlinear flight Control supplemented with Envelope ProtecTION techniques and the EPSRC-funded programme, Complex Autonomous aircraft Systems Configuration, Analysis and Design Exploratory.

Cranfield is one of only five UK universities to have a strategic partnership with BAE Systems and has attracted substantial government and industrial investment in the last three years in the areas of autonomy and artificial intelligence. 

The university is home to facilities such as the Aerospace Integration Research Centre, the Intelligent Mobility Engineering Centre and the Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation; a new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre is under development.

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