The Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Sub-Committee of the House of Lords European Union Committee visited Cranfield University this week as part of an investigation into the use of civilian Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) – often referred to as ‘drones’ or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Phil John, Cranfield Pro-Vice-Chancellor, School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing said: “As a centre of excellence in UAVs Cranfield is able to provide information on the research and development of unmanned vehicles, which are emerging as a key capability of the future. Working closely with business our impact and influence is recognised locally, nationally and internationally, and we are delighted we are able to share our expertise with the House of Lords Committee”.

The House of Lords visit discussed research into remotely piloted aircraft, unmanned vehicles, the emerging technologies and the challenges associated with the utilisation and certification of autonomous aircraft. 

The visit concluded with a demonstration of an RPAS unmanned vehicle in action. The University’s Safety and Accident Investigation Centre staged a simulated scenario to demonstrate how a UAV might be used to fly over a site in order to assist investigators with risk assessment, gathering evidence and mapping.

Baroness O’Cathain, chair of the EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment, said: “It’s been a fascinating visit, and it has enabled us to see up close how drones work, and how they might be incorporated into civilian life. The insight we have been given from the team at Cranfield has been extremely useful for our inquiry, and we expect to incorporate much of what we have learnt into the committee’s final report, expected early next year.”

Notes for editors

RPAS vary greatly in size, flying capability and methods of control. From crop spraying to aerial photography, even to pizza delivery, the use of drones in civilian life is expanding rapidly. They are increasingly being used in Europe, in countries such as Sweden, France and the UK, to check for damage to road and rail bridges, monitor natural disasters such as flooding and to spray crops with pinpoint accuracy.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Aerospace Doctoral Training Centre

This higher research degree is associated with our Aerospace Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). The Aerospace DTC encompasses a wide range of research and technology in the field of aeronautics and astronautics, including applications in the civil and defence sectors. The research areas range from advanced computational modeling and simulation to experimental testing using large scale facilities, including: flight testing, large wind tunnels, cabin evacuation, manufacturing and high-performance computing facilities.

A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside the generic core skills training programme, provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities with Cranfield’s wider research community.