Autonomous drones fly into TV

Bristol's MAAXX Europe competition captured for documentary
28th February 2017

Researchers at the recent autonomous drone competition at UWE are set to be part of a TV documentary on the Discovery Channel.

MAAXX-LogoThe MAAXX Europe event saw university research teams, companies and enthusiasts competing to get their drones to fly on their own around a course at the Exhibition Centre at the University of the West of England. Only four out of the six teams completed the course, highlighting the challenges of image recognition algorithms, lighting and autonomous control systems.

John Bradford“For this first ever fully autonomous aerial race we had 6 teams from industry and universities across the UK,” said Dr John Bradford *pictured left), chief executive of High Tech Bristol and Bath (HBB) which helped organise the event with UWE through a Special Interest Group. “Only four teams actually completed the course, underlining the technical challenge this represents. For the Blue Riband Speed Challenge there were only 2 seconds between 1st and 2nd place!”

“In addition to the competing teams, we welcomed over a hundred spectators including many families. Throughout the weekend we hosted Masterclass Workshops, flying demonstrations, flying simulators, and plenty of opportunities for engineers of all ages to try their hand at piloting a small quad- or hexacopter, all within our 20x20x4m netted safe flying zone.”

Local software engineer Mike Isted (pictured in the main picture, above) developed a unique drone that flies a few centimetres from the floor using a laser-ranging sensor to maintain the height and a Raspberry Pi 3 as the controller. He came fourth in the competition. The team from UWE won the Speed & Endurance award while the Kudos prize from an audience vote went to the team from the University of Bristol.

“The event was a huge success and with the ongoing support of the University of the West of England we are already talking to sponsors about MAAXX Europe 2018,” adds John.

You can see more of Mike’s drone here, and you can contact John Bradford at HBB about joining the drone Special Interest Group or sponsoring MAAXX Europe 2018.