UCLan academics flying high as drone among nation’s best

Launch pad: Clare Cook, from the Media Innovation Studio at UCLan Journalism Department, with the drone on the Harris Flights
Launch pad: Clare Cook, from the Media Innovation Studio at UCLan Journalism Department, with the drone on the Harris Flights
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A pioneering drone project created by academics in Preston is officially one of the best designs to come out of the UK.

The unmanned search and rescue initiative, devised by the University of Central Lancashire, has been named by the Design Museum as one of the top designs of the year.

Staff at the university’s Aerospace Centre and Media Innovation Studio worked together to develop the kit they are testing with Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team.

On its first public trial, the AeroSee proved a big hit, involving people from all over the world acting as virtual mountain rescue search assistants as they joined the live search and rescue trial operation from their computers, tablet devices and mobile phones.

Now, as part of a celebration of the ‘best in design’ over the past year, the UAV project will be showcased at the London-based Museum’s ‘Designs of the Year’ exhibition.

Paul Egglestone, director of the Media Innovation Studio, said: “It’s a real privilege to be included in an exhibition whose previous winners include Shepard Fairey’s fantastic Obama posters, the Olympic torch and the one laptop per child project.

“It’s also great to know the design community are as happy as ever to experiment with new and creative ways of including people who might feel they’re not part of that community in the traditional sense.”

This is seen as unique in uniting Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technology with the ‘power of the crowd’. It also seeks to capitalise on some of the key attributes of the growing UAV technology field, and examine how the devices can be used for socially-motivated purposes, such as by the emergency services, the media industry and wildlife conservation.

Andrew Ireland is dean of the School of Journalism and Digital Communication, home to the Media Innovation Studio.

He said: “The AeroSee project represents the enormous potential in the UK HE sector, bringing together specialists from different disciplines to, in this example, refocus drone technology as a power for good. The fact that our crowd-sourcing approach delivers a faster response than a computer demonstrates the potential of exploring human/digital interactions.”

AeroSee will be appearing with some of the 80 shortlisted concepts from March 26.