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Cranfield University to Establish Chair in Autonomous Systems and AI

BAE Systems Will Sponsor and Support

Cranfield University is to establish a Chair in Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence (AI), sponsored by BAE Systems.

The Professorship will be a research leadership role, bringing together research in UAVs, space and AI, adding to Cranfield’s leading reputation in the fields. Advances in machine learning, high-performance computing, data science, multimodal sensing and control are merging to create opportunities for intelligent, autonomous or semi-autonomous systems. AI systems are starting to achieve cognitive abilities, such as language, attention and creativity, promising to improve safety and efficiency in systems for space technology and increasingly autonomous systems in aerospace and aviation.

Academics at Cranfield have played substantial roles within a number of autonomy-related programmes and initiatives over recent years. These include: the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Grand Challenges; Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment (ASTRAEA); the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS DTC); Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research (ASUR) and the recent European Defence Agency-funded EuroSWARM programme.

The university is currently working on major research programmes such as: the national UAV Traffic Management (UTM) system; Incremental Nonlinear flight Control supplemented with Envelope ProtecTION techniques (INCEPTION); and the EPSRC-funded programme, Complex Autonomous aircraft Systems Configuration, Analysis and Design Exploratory (CASCADE).

Cranfield University is one of only five UK universities to have a strategic partnership with BAE Systems and has attracted substantial government and industrial investment in the last three years in the areas of autonomy and AI. The University is home to facilities such as the Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC); the Intelligent Mobility Engineering Centre (IMEC); and the Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation (MUEAVI), all of which have been built, with the new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) under development.

Autonomous systems and artificial intelligence have the potential to provide a substantial positive impact upon product, service, and industrial capabilities. This prestigious appointment, in a growing and highly disruptive field, will enable BAE Systems to exploit the latest technologies in these areas to continuously improve our engineering and manufacturing processes, and give our customers a differentiating capability in the field,” explained BAE Systems Air’s Chief Technology Officer, Julia Sutcliffe.

“Underpinned by our global research airport, Cranfield has a suite of world-leading facilities that support our work in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. This partnership with BAE Systems is the latest exciting development, and we are delighted to be working with them in an area that will be critically important to the defence and aerospace sectors over the coming years,” added the University’s Director of Aerospace, Professor Iain Gray.


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