Collaboration between Loughborough University and local SME to develop next generation of chemical detectors for UAVs.
T4i Engineering is an SME focusing on the design and development of advanced chemical detection systems that are mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The company is a member of the Integrated Mission Group for Security (IMGS) and participates in the EDEN supplier platform and the DRIVER community. They are also members of the European Alliance for Innovation (EAI) of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group established by InnovateUK.
What they do
Their core business is the design of modular and adaptive detectors and R&D activities related to security applications and search and rescue operations. They collaborate with UAV and robot providers on mounting chemical detectors on-board unmanned platforms.
T4i Engineering runs R&D in areas of miniaturisation and additive/subtractive manufacturing for chemical detectors. T4i engineering explores both field and industrial applications in collaboration with university teams.
The detectors on board UAVs need to be small, lightweight and have low power consumption. They also need to be able to cope with variations in pressure, temperature and humidity as these can all have a bearing on the reliability and accuracy of the readings.
The design & development of these systems entails the evaluation of performance on-board the UAV, where rapid changes of temperature, pressure and humidity are likely to occur, due to flight conditions. T4i wanted to establish a relationship with academics at Loughborough University with a view to working together on larger R&D projects.
T4i Engineering Ltd applied to The iNet for support from the ERDF Smart Innovation and Networking for Growth programme. This programme offers SMEs fully-funded access to up to 5 days support from a Loughborough University academic.
The company used their 5 days of
support to work with Dr James Knowles, a lecturer in dynamics and control at
the Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering department of Loughborough
The project was to:
the impacts of flying conditions on the performance of a chemical detector as a
payload on a UAV
concrete proposals for further studies that will allow any constraints or
limitations under certain flight conditions to be addressed,
the optimum location/placement of the detector on the unmanned platform,
engagement with T4i Engineering and the generation of impact from his research
his contribution to the department’s existing research activities in the area
of UAV chemical detection systems (which are currently algorithm-focused).
in new knowledge for performance optimization of the T4i DOVER™ chemical detector
which is designed for use on board unmanned vehicles.
to further studies (and possible applications to further funding schemes) for
establishing a theoretical model of impacts that will address different types
of chemical detectors as well as different types of UAV
In addition to this support, T4i
Engineering was also supported by the Loughborough University Space Incubator
programme. The company was not
previously aware that businesses working on space-enabled applications (making
use of satellite data, communications and imagery) could be eligible for
support from the space sector. The
company was signposted to a range of support organisations and funding
competitions. The company was introduced
to InnovateUKs’ Knowledge Transfer Manager for Space and the UK Ambassador for
ESA’s Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP) programme.
Dr Knowles completed the work and produced a report which detailed his findings and highlighted questions requiring further investigation.
T4i are looking to continue working with Dr Knowles on more extensive studies and are seeking funding opportunities for such work. A new project will seek to establish, among others, a theoretical model of impacts that will address different types of chemical detectors as well as different types of UAVs.
George Pallis, MD
“James studied the impacts of flying conditions on the performance of the detectors helping us to identify ways to optimise the performance of our T4i DOVER™”