Students unite with Rolls-Royce to ramp up life-saving drone technology


A group of students have teamed up with Rolls-Royce engineers to lay the foundations for a collaborative project to design and develop new technologies that could save lives at sea.

Seven students at UWC Atlantic College in south Wales have been developing ideas for new marine technologies, such as scouting drones, which could aid the search and rescue process at sea, alongside three of Rolls-Royce’s most experienced marine specialists.

The project team felt driven to come up with new solutions to aid the process, utilising their knowledge of drone technology and artificial intelligence, after experiencing first-hand the difficulties of searching for and rescuing persons in trouble at sea during their college service and lifeguarding training programme.

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Simon O’Connor, a marine engineer in Rolls-Royce’s naval business, Bernard Twomey, regulatory development lead (marine), and Don Murray, senior vice president (manufacturing), travelled to St Donat’s Castle in south Wales, to work with some of the students to develop systematic approaches to solving problems faced by search and rescue teams at sea.

Commenting on the project, Peter T Howe, principal of UWC Atlantic College, said: “From the development of the RIB all those years ago, to the potentially ground-breaking ideas coming from the students on this project, UWC Atlantic College has a rich history of contributing to lifesaving at sea.

“These students have been passionately involved in co-curricular activities such the lifeguarding course we run alongside the RNLI – our students can be found safeguarding nine beaches across Wales in the summer – and it’s great to see them taking those experiences to the next level.”

Erol Balkovic, 18, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a second year student involved with the project, said: “It can be incredibly hard to find what, or who, you are looking for in those conditions. One of our ideas revolves around the idea that technology can essentially become the eyes and ears of a search and rescue team, pinpointing the location of a person or boat in trouble and making the entire process more efficient. This could help save lives otherwise lost at sea.”

Rolls-Royce is committed to advancing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects among the engineers of tomorrow. Its work with UWC Atlantic College forms just one part of its ambition to reach six million young people by 2020.

O’Connor added: “We’ve worked with students at some of the UK’s top universities focused on marine engineering and naval architecture. The ideas, problem-solving approaches, and knowledge of these students at UWC Atlantic College is akin to what we would expect to see at undergraduate level, and in some instances, even postgraduate level.”

Tags : Drone projectRolls-Roycescouting dronesSearch and Rescuetechnology at seaUWC Atlantic College
Emma Calder

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