DRONE RESEARCH PROJECT COULD MAKE SEARCH & RESCUE SAFER

Pictured at the launch (l-r): Maynooth University’s President Prof Philip Nolan; John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development; Margie McCarthy, Director of Innovation, Communications and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, and Dr Tim McCarthy, Dept of Computer Science and National Centre for Geocomputation, Maynooth University.

A new €6.3 million research project, which will assist the development of drone technology to perform tasks such as delivering lifesaving medical supplies or making search and rescue operations safer and more efficient, has been launched in Waterford.

U-Flyte, a collaboration between researchers at Maynooth University and a number of industry partners, aims to develop new systems that would allow drones to fly longer distances.

Unless they have secured special permission, drone operators are currently limited to maintaining their drones within a 300m circumference and within sight at all times, and are also limited to flying no higher than 120 metres.

While these guidelines are necessary, they restrict the wider development and uptake of drone applications and services – not only in Ireland but also across the globe, according to Dr Tim McCarthy from Maynooth University’s Department of Computer Science and National Centre for Geocomputation.

U-Flyte’s aim is to tackle the current global log-jam impeding the wider development of drone operation and the roll-out of commercial services by providing research, data and case studies to guide agencies in allowing drones to safely fly further and higher than the current limits, he said.

“Drone technology has the potential to be used for a wide range of practical applications, from the simple delivery of online shopping, to capturing data for maps of farms, forests, lake and coastlines, and providing security surveillance in vulnerable areas,” said Dr McCarthy.

“Experts foresee drones being used to transport lifesaving medical supplies, or making search and rescue operations safer and more efficient than ever before. However, new research is required to ensure that drones can operate safely and securely,” he added.