How would you feel about drones flying overhead? What would they be able to see from the air? What does our world look like to them and how much of it do they see? What if we could have a drone’s eye view of the world, what would it feel like to rise through the air and look around from such heights?
The E-Drone project has taken actual footage shot by a drone and used it to build a virtual reality simulation of a flight, taking off from inside the Holburn library where our festival exhibit is based, breaking out through the roof and flying over University College London’s Portico building.
Using a large touch screen table, visitors could play Navigating the Skies. Players could plot a route for the delivery drone, keeping eye on their battery use before watching the drone fly.
Solent Future Transport Forum 2023 - 18th and 19th January, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
The Solent Future Transport Forum was a great opportunity to demonstrate the virtual reality experience and digital game to transport professionals. The Future Transport Forum is attended by professionals involved with or interested in future mobility projects.
The interactive digital game was cast onto a large touchscreen table. The game allows players to select a drone route over the area with information on risk factors and energy use. Once the route is complete, a flyover video shows the chosen route. The video (above) provides a demonstration.
Researchers demonstrate the interactive digital game
University of Southampton Road Show – Hands on Humanities event 19/11/22
"Where will delivery drones fly?" A team of E-Drone researchers used our newly developed digital game to explore drone routing over Southampton with families visiting the Hands on Humanities event. Children and adults were able to play the game, ask questions about risk and energy use and discuss ideas around using drones for making deliveries.
University of Southampton Road Show – New Forest and Hampshire County Show 26/7/22 – 28/7/22
The 'Bringing Research to Life Roadshow' is the University of Southampton’s itinerant platform designed to help researchers develop effective ways of sharing their work with the public. The University had a marquee at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show over the full three days, being the first Road Show event held since 2019 due to the pandemic.
Using virtual reality headsets, our exhibit allowed visitors to the show to look at the world around you in real time whilst experiencing the sensation of drone flight paths overhead. The computer-animated drone models used are accurately reproduced from original sources using CAD drawings with the audio taken from actual flight recordings. The virtual environments try to realistically recreate some of the places people might expect to see drones flying overhead.
Screen grab of the head set view of the Titan drone landing at the show ground
Participants (years 7 and up) were then given the opportunity to put on the VR headsets under the supervision of a helper and observe the drones in action flying over the show ground.
Over the three days, 453 members tried the experience. Feedback was extremely positive and suggested that such an approach was very useful in getting a perception of what such futuristic systems might be like in reality.
University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day - May 7th 2022
The Team from University of Southampton
Science and Engineering Day is an annual event bringing science to life for the general public through over 90 engagement events held across the main Highfield and Boldrewood campuses at the University of Southampton. The event attracts some 4000 people and sees a wide spectrum of interactive exhibits, talks, live shows and facility tours across the science and engineering spectrum.
Our exhibit: How will Delivery Drones Look and Sound? Drone Virtual-Reality experience - Used virtual reality headsets to give the general public an idea of what delivery drones operating on virtual highways might look and sound like in the future.
Participants (years 7 and up) were given a brief intro into commercial drones as opposed to hobbyist drones, using the examples of Windracers Ultra and Skylift’s Mugin V50 shown through video and posters. They were then asked how they would feel if their home was on the flight path of a drone corridor where such platforms were operating before putting on the VR headsets to observe the drones in action.
Dr Jason Drummond with a participant
Oakey, A., Martinez-Sykora, A., Cherrett, T. 2023. Improving the efficiency of patient diagnostic specimen collection with the aid of a multi-modal routing algorithm. Computers and Operations Research. 157, 106265.
Zhu, W., Oakey, A., Royall, P., Waters, T., Cherrett, T., Bester, A., Lucas, R. (2023) Investigating the influence of drone flight on the stability of cancer medicines. PLOS ONE 18(1): e0278873.
Oakey A, Grote M, Smith A, Cherrett T, Pilko A, et al. (2022) Integrating drones into NHS patient diagnostic logistics systems: Flight or fantasy? PLOS ONE 17(12): e0264669.
Grote M, Pilko A, Scanlan J, Cherrett T, Dickinson J, Smith A, Oakey A and Marsden G (2022) 'Sharing airspace with Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Views of the General Aviation (GA) community', Journal of Air Transport Management, 102, 102218.
Smith A, Dickinson JE, Marsden G, Cherrett T, Oakey A, Grote M. Public acceptance of the use of drones for logistics: The state of play and moving towards more informed debate Technology in Society 68 01 Feb 2022
Grote, M., Pilko, A. Scanlan, J., Cherrett, T., Dickinson, J., Smith, A., Oakey, A., Marsden, G.
Grote, M., Cherrett, T., Oakey, A., Royall, P.G., Whalley, S., Dickinson, J. (2021) How Do Dangerous Goods Regulations Apply to Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles Transporting Medical Cargos? Drones, 5(2), 38.
Oakey, A., Waters, T., Zhu, W., Royall, P.G., Cherrett, T., Courtney, P., Majoe, D. and Jelev, N. (2021) Quantifying the Effects of Vibration on Medicines in Transit Caused by Fixed-Wing and Multi-Copter Drones. Drones, 5(1), p.22, 2021.
Grote, M., Oakey, A., Pilko, A, Smith., Cherrett, T. 2023. Drones: the scope for integration into multi-modal urban logistics services. In, Monios, J., Budd, L. and Ison, S (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Urban Logistics. 1st ed. Routledge - Taylor & Francis, pp. 72-90. (doi:10.4324/9781003241478-8). Request a copy here
Smith, A., Marsden, G. and Dickinson, J., 2022. ISBN 978-91-88651-14-3. In: Oldbury, K. and Isaksson, K., eds. Experimentation for sustainable transport? Risks, strengths, and governance implications. Boxholm, Sweden: Linnefors förlag.
Reports and Briefing Papers
Scanlon, J., Cherrett, T. (2021) Good Practice Guide for Airworthiness and Operations of Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs). A focus on NHS logistics applications. University of Southampton.
Identifying benefits of shared-fleet horizontal logistics collaborations: Patient service vehicles collecting pathology samples – A Case Study in a public sector healthcare setting. Poster Presentation
Matt Grote, Tom Cherrett, Andy Oakey, Antonio Martinez-Sykora, Ismail Aydemir - University of Southampton
Presented at the Transport Research Board Annual Meeting 2023
Road-based logistics can be associated with inefficiencies due to vehicles travelling with less-than-full loads. Shared-fleet logistics, involving horizontal collaboration between organizations to consolidate loads and improve vehicle utilization through sharing vehicle capacity, can reduce such inefficiencies, and thereby reduce costs, vehicle-kilometres (vkm), related vehicle emissions and traffic congestion.
The potential for a shared-fleet operation involving the pathology sample collection service sharing the vehicle capacity in the non-emergency patient ambulances as an alternative to engaging an external courier company was investigated.
Access the poster here
Shaping future transport: using a board game approach to understand public perception of UAVs in logistics - Poster Presentation
Taalia Nadeem - Bournemouth University
Presented at the Urban Transitions 2022
This research aims to facilitate the public’s understanding of drones in logistics and provide opportunities for them to give more informed views that may feed into future policies. This is achieved through a board game to engage the public, providing them with a space to share ideas and reflection on experiences during gameplay. A key benefit of a board game is its ability to cater to a broad audience and potentially encourage rich discussions amongst participants. The gameplay involves realistic drone scenarios including choices related to risk, time and energy along with other operational parameters, followed by a discussion with the researchers.
Access the poster here
Deliveries by drone? Using virtual reality to extend public debate - Poster Presentation
Angela Smith, Janet Dickinson, Jason Drummond, Taalia Nadeem - Bournemouth University
Presented at the Urban Transitions 2022
The E-Drone research project has found limitations in how the use of drones for logistics has been explored with the public. A key criticism is the failure to provide contextual information on delivery drone flights. The E-Drone research project is employing virtual reality to super-impose drone movements over relatable settings. Participants are able to experience the drones flying over the locality within which they are situated and provided with information on the early use-case scenario which sees drones flying along relatively fixed corridors of airspace. Following this they are invited to reflect on the contexts and frequencies where such overflights might take place, provide general feedback to those tasked with developing regulation and identify any further information they may need to develop their viewpoint. This paper presents findings from this research and reflects on the value of virtual reality in enabling greater participation in shaping the future role of drones and other forms of urban air mobility.
Access the poster here
Spatiotemporal Ground Risk Mapping for Uncrewed Aerial Systems operations
Aliaksei Pilko, A.Sóbester, J.P.Scanlan and M Ferraro - University of Southampton
Presented at the AIAA SciTech conference 2022
In this paper we propose the use of spatiotemporal population density data in the analysis of ground risk posed by UAS (Uncrewed Aerial System) operations. The spatiotemporal population density maps are generated through the combination of authoritative data sources, open source geospatial databases, and past works to dynamically classify proportions of a population to their expected daily activities based upon a given time. This adds a further dimension to analysis allowing evaluation and optimisation of ground risk, both spatially and temporally. This approach is used to analyse the ground risk posed under ballistic and gliding descents of a parameterized UAS along a case study path. An open source tool is implemented as part of this work to aid the decision making of operators and promote safer UAS operations
Access the full paper here
Conferences and Workshops
Reflections and Opinions of the General Aviation Community on the Introduction of Drones into Shared Airspace
Commercial drone operations take place mainly in uncontrolled airspace, which is extensively used by the sports and leisure flying community – often loosely referred to as the General Aviation (GA) community. There has been growing concern amongst this community regarding the expansion of drone operations, which are largely conducted in segregated airspace under Temporary Danger Areas (TDAs). TDAs effectively restrict access to other air users and are seen by the GA community as a significant threat to their activities. To investigate these issues, the E-drone project ran a national workshop on 26th March 2021 attracting attendees representing a variety of groups from across the GA community.
The purpose of this workshop was to:
Brief the GA community regarding current drone operations and plans within the E-drone, Solent FTZ (Future Transport Zone) and other connected consortia.
Discuss alternatives to TDAs, in particular the shared airspace concept called 'Class Lima'.
Allow the GA community to voice their concerns and make suggestions.
Record, analyse and respond to all the comments and issues raised.
Following our analysis of all the comments recorded during the workshop, a summary of the main topics discussed can be found here.
Unsegregated sharing of airspace: Views of the Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry expressed at the E-Drone drone operators meeting (03/08/21)
A key issue with operating drones, particularly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), is approving and setting up Temporary Danger Areas (TDAs), which effectively reserve segregated areas of airspace for drone operations at the expense of other air users. TDAs are a blunt instrument for managing airspace, can take considerable time to get approved, and only last for a specific time period. Hence, there is an increasingly urgent requirement to consider methods by which drones can be integrated harmoniously and efficiently into shared airspace with crewed aircraft. The E-Drone project therefore ran a national workshop to discuss drone integration in shared airspace on 03/08/2021 to which a large number of groups that represented the drone industry were invited. A summary report is available here.