Cranfield University has announced that it is planning for a world-leading Professorship in Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence at the University, sponsored by BAE Systems, a technology leader in this field.
 
The Professorship will be a research leadership role at the University, bringing together research in UAV’s, Space and artificial intelligence (AI) adding to Cranfield’s leading reputation in the fields of autonomous systems and AI.

Advances in machine learning, high-performance computing, data science, multimodal sensing, and control are merging together to create enormous opportunities for intelligent, autonomous, or semi-autonomous systems. Such artificial intelligence systems are starting to achieve cognitive abilities such as language, attention, and creativity, promising to improve the safety and efficiency of systems for space technology and increasingly autonomous systems in aerospace and aviation.

Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Technology Officer, BAE Systems Air said: “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.”

Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, said: “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.”

Academics at Cranfield have played substantial roles within a number of autonomy-related programmes and initiatives over recent years. These include: the UK 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 UAVs 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 artificial intelligence. 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) have been constructed, with the new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) under development.

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. It is the only university in Europe to own and run an airport and to have airline status and it has been at the forefront of aerospace technology for 70 years.

Its education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Flying Laboratory Centre – a unique national asset which provides a hands-on, flying experience, along with flight deck simulators and industrial-scale gas turbine engine test facilities used for performance and diagnostic studies.

As the UK's most business-engaged University, it has long-term relationships and close commercial partnerships with many companies including BAE Systems. The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, a £35 million innovative centre built in partnership with Airbus and Rolls-Royce, fosters collaboration between industry and academia. A new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will also be built at Cranfield to spearhead the UK’s research into digital aviation technology.

Notable Cranfield alumni include Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc and Ralph Hooper, who attended the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1946 and went on to become one of the UK’s most important post-war aircraft designers, creating the Hawker Harrier jump jet.