Scottish student develops new safety system for unmanned vehicles


An Edinburgh PhD student has developed a new algorithm aimed at transforming the capability of self-driving cars and unmanned aerial vehicles.

After months of research in the laboratories of aerospace engineering firm Leonardo, Euan Ward has developed a new algorithm that uses radar technology, but is shielded from radio interference.

This could pave the way for the use of fully autonomous vehicles in built-up or busy areas.

Currently, self-driving cars rely on sensors to avoid collisions, but these can only detect threats within a certain radius. As the use of fully autonomous vehicles grows, the potential for interference between systems will pose a threat to the safety of these vehicles.

Unfortunately, the radar will not be immune to this effect, so it must learn to operate in an environment congested with radio frequency energy. One of the technologies that are said to interfere with aircraft sensors is the 5G network.

Ward undertook his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, where he developed new techniques to protect modern radar systems from harmful interference.

With support from Leonardo, Ward spent four years developing the technology that could allow low-cost radar systems to maintain performance when operating in close proximity to each other.

In his second year of study, he received an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the 1851 Exhibition.

Last week, Ward explained the new solution to Princess Anne during a presidential dinner at Fishmongers Hall in London.

She asked him how the tests of driverless cars had so far been done in dry climates such as Arizona, where straight, empty roads traveled for miles, and how these vehicles could cope with the weather and the most difficult terrain.

Ward replied: “One of the big uncertainties surrounding the driverless car is how it will handle more difficult road and weather conditions, such as we often have in Scotland.

“Fortunately, I was able to confirm that unlike other sensors in the autonomous car, radars are able to maintain their operational performance in bad weather, which is also true for the techniques developed in this thesis.

“This means that for a place like Scotland, where the weather is often unpredictable, the radar sensor will become even more critical to the safety of the driverless car, which highlights the need for us to have techniques that can guarantee its reliability. .“

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