University project to receive £2.5m in unmanned systems funding

A training project for smart and autonomous observation systems (SAOS) that will equip the environmental scientists and engineers of the future is to receive £2.5m in government funding.

The project, led by Southampton University, will consist of a new doctoral training centre on the south coast called NEXUSS ((NEXt generation Unmanned System Science). Drones and autonomous systems are playing an increasingly important role in environmental science, and the centre will be dedicated to providing specialised training in this area.

The new NEXUSS CDT will train students in the use of innovative autonomous observation systems.
The NEXUSS centre will train students in the use of autonomous observation systems.

Funding for NEXUSS is being provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Academic and research partners include the British Antarctic Survey, Heriot – Watt University, National Oceanography Centre, Scottish Association for Marine Science and University of East Anglia.

“We are delighted to be awarded this funding by NERC and EPSRC,” said NEXUSS director Alberto Naveira Garabato, a professor from Southampton University.

“It is an outstanding opportunity to develop a new generation of environmental scientists that is more aware of the vast possibilities that SAOS approaches offer, and that can take forward the environmental application of these technologies in decades to come.”

The funding will facilitate training for ten PhD students a year for three years, beginning in 2016. It is part of the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) 2020 National Strategy, which has seen £400m in government funding being earmarked for sectors including the marine industry.

“Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) are extremely popular with students and industry alike as they address real-world challenges and skills needs,” said EPSRC chief executive professor Philip Nelson, a former Pro Vice-Chancellor at Southampton University.

“EPSRC is pleased to be working with NERC to support the NEXUSS CDT as it will cover areas such as robotics and autonomous systems which are firmly within our remit.”