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Date: August 24, 2012

UAV Program Receives Federal Funding

A UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) is an autonomous aircraft remotely flown and monitored from a mobile ground control station.

The University of Victoria, with its new Centre for Aerospace Research located near Sidney, BC, is positioning itself at the leading edge of aerospace research and at the forefront of an emerging UAV industry in Western Canada.

The federal funding announced today will allow UVic to take a major leap forward in establishing a strong niche position in this new market and developing efficient and highly configurable UAVs at a competitive cost for a broad range of purposes including search and rescue, border patrol, firefighting, crop monitoring and aerial mapping.

Civilian UAV commercial use is currently in the embryonic stage in North America. There is a significant marketplace gap between unreliable hobby-grade aircraft and expensive turnkey (“off-the-shelf”) systems geared specifically for government and military use. At present, UAVs for civilian application are priced well beyond the reach of industry and researchers.

UVic’s new centre, located at 9800 McDonald Park Road adjacent to Victoria International Airport will help drive the development of this emerging sector both here in BC and internationally. The benefits and application of UAVs are considerable. 

Compared to conventional aircraft, they: -Can operate in environments hazardous to humans; -Have significantly smaller environmental impacts; -Can stay in the air for up to 30 hours or more; -Can be back up in the air quickly between operations; -Can operate in dull, dirty or challenging conditions such as full darkness, highly repetitive flight patterns or poor weather. UAVs can be used among other applications specifically for: -Forest fire patrol, coast guard surveillance, port security, border patrol and avalanche prevention; -Agricultural crop surveys, aerial fish spotting and habitat assessment; -Wildlife preservation, migration studies and poaching patrol; -Pipeline patrol, infrared mapping and powerline inspection.

Prototypes include fixed-wing aircraft (wingspan 50cm to 3m and sometimes up to 5m) and “quadcopters” with rotating wings.

When a UAV is in operation, people would see it overhead following a pre-determined route—similar to the grid pattern when mowing a lawn—approximately 500 to 1,000 feet above ground with a high-resolution camera on the undercarriage and a mobile control centre within a kilometre or two of the flight site.

UVic's aerospace design facility will work closely with industrial partners and Transport Canada, and is supported by $671,500 in Western Economic Diversification funding as well as over $1 million over the past five years in cash and in-kind funding from industry and government partner organizations.

The UVic UAV team (UVic’s Faculty of Engineering) will be led by aerospace engineer and centre director Prof. Afzal Suleman and, in addition to two colleagues, currently includes 10 undergraduate students and five graduate students including PhD student and centre manager Jenner Richards. UVic's Aero Club will also play a role in development.

UVic intends to produce—from the ground up, through conceptualization and design to manufacture, testing, operation and monitoring—a family of airframe prototypes that can be readily customized for commercial and research purposes. The new inventions and industrial patents, filed with assistance from UVic Industry Partnerships, will be made available for licensing to industry.

The centre’s industrial and government partnerships include, to name a selection: Viking Air (North Saanich, BC); Meggitt Training Systems Canada (Medicine Hat, AB); Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems; Institute for Aerospace Research (Brazil); Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa); Camosun College, Simon Fraser University, Virginia Tech University (USA), University of Bristol (UK) and the Instituto Superior Tecnico (Portugal).

UVic is known for its innovative research and its continuing commitment to connecting researchers with the public, private and non-profit sectors on research and creative and artistic endeavours that are making a difference locally, nationally and around the world.

Click here for today’s federal government news release.

All B roll and images below are courtesy of UVic’s Centre for Aerospace Research. See photos page below for high-res photos.

Downloadable videos available at: To download videos, right-click on link and "save target as" or "save link as".

http://communications.uvic.ca/videos/UAV-Flight.mov 714 megabytes
http://communications.uvic.ca/videos/UAV-Landing.mov 475 megabytes
http://communications.uvic.ca/videos/UAV-Launch.mov 569 megabytes

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Media contacts:

Prof. Afzal Suleman (Director, UVic Centre for Aerospace Research; Dept. of Mechanical Engineering) at 250-721-6039 or suleman@uvic.ca
Jenner Richards (Manager, UVic Centre for Aerospace Research; PhD student, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering) on cell at 250-516-1972 or jenner@uvic.ca
Tara Sharpe (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7636 or ucom@uvic.ca
Mitch Wright (UVic Communications) on cell at 250-213-1705 or mwwright@uvic.ca

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Photos page:
UAV Program Receives Federal Funding Images

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)