Michigan university to get $800,000 drone testing lab

The University of Michigan is planning an 890-sq-m outdoor lab for testing autonomous aerial vehicles.

The M-Lab will be a netted four-storey-high space costing $800,000 on the University’s College of Engineering campus.

The lab will be close to the university’s fake city that is used to test automated and networked vehicles.

Ella Atkins, professor of aerospace engineering, said: "M-Air will allow us to push the edge of our algorithms and equipment in a safe way, where the worst that can happen is it falls from the sky.

"With this facility, we can pursue aggressive educational and research flight projects that involve high risk of fly-away or loss-of-control-and in realistic wind, lighting and sensor conditions.

"You could travel over a disaster site, or a farm. Small drones can go places that are very hard or dangerous to get to, and fairly quickly because they don’t need roads.

"From an aerial robotics perspective, this facility is enabling the notion of ‘If you can imagine it, you can try it out’. My vision is get a lawn chair and sit out there as much as possible".

Construction on the project starts this month and is due to be completed before the end of 2017.

Drones have previously been used to inspect high-rise buildings, roads and gas pipes.

Firms such as Vinci and Bechtel use drones during construction.

Image courtesy of University of Michigan/Harley Ellis Deveraux

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