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August 15, 2017

UK students earn top marks from Microsoft for drone safety solution

Could this technological development for drone safety reinvigorate plans for their commercial use?

By Tom Ball

A group of 14 students from Imperial College London have been credited by Microsoft with solving the serious problem of drones being used safely in the vicinity of planes and buildings.

Microsoft Azure is at the core of drone flight traffic control solution, with the students developing an algorithm to stop drones entering restricted areas and altitudes. The new system was able to manage 1,000 drones flying within a one kilometre square without incident.

Civil Aviation Authority guidelines in the UK dictate that drones must not be flown above an altitude of 400ft, and must not come within 150ft of properties or people.

The new system alongside UK drone service company Altitude Angel, while using Skype for communication. Altitude Angel provides its own drone safety offering called Drone Assist.

UK students earn top marks from Microsoft for drone safety solution

Emily Byle, a member of Microsoft’s University Engagement Team, said the Imperial College London project was a “perfect example of how the cloud can bring learning to life and help solve some of the key challenges that lay ahead as drone technology becomes more pervasive”.

There has been a rapid increase in the number of people purchasing and using drones, and this is due in part to them being very affordable. They are widely available online and in stores and can even cost less than twenty pounds.

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Major risks have been posed and problems caused by the amateur use of drones, a recent example of this that grabbed headlines caused significant delays to flights arriving and departing from Gatwick airport.  This instance resulted in two runway closures as a reaction to the sighting of a drone near the airport; the impact of this meant that four flights were diverted to Bournemouth.

This stride forwards in automated drone safety could also be a move forward for plans pertaining to the commercial use of drones, with the added reassurance that rogue units would not pose risks to safety or privacy.

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