Cranfield University (CU) is one of the top Aerospace Engineering universities in UK and EU. In addition they have a close partnership to the local and international aerospace industry. Cranfield is also hosting the Aircraft Integration Research Centre, a Centre jointly funded by Airbus, Rolls Royce, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Cranfield University. The Centre focuses on industrially funded research on the integration of the airframe the propulsion and the associated systems.
The AREND unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed as a specialised aerial sensor aircraft that supports the anti-poaching operations conducted by rangers in nature reserves in South Africa. AREND which stands for Aircraft for Rhino and Environmental Defence was designed and tested to distinguish between humans and large animals such as rhinoceros in harsh environments. However, the project became a research and design platform for UAV related questions, since we are not invested in a specific airframe or sensor payload system, we merely offer the opportunity for students to learn and experiment with novel ideas as well as for some local industry partners. Currently there is a very meaningful exchange of knowledge and mentorship to students involved on the project from local industry, especially from the CSIR, Paramount Aerial Monitoring Solutions and Epsilon Engineering. We also offer exchange projects for international students of which Stuttgart University has been the most lucrative, sending a Master student every second year.
Project collaboration and background
Initially four universities on three continents were involved in the project; Colorado University (CU) Boulder (USA), Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (Finland), University of Pretoria (UP) (South Africa), and the University of Stuttgart (US) (Germany) with each university responsible for a different subsystem. UP and US took charge of the airframe development for the drone, CU of the payload and avionics and Metropolia of the ground sensor system. By the end of 2014, the competition was cancelled, but the team decided to continue to work on the project. The team from SU came to South Africa to test fly the airframe that same year. During 2015, the project was integrated into 4 project based modules in the Mechanical and Aeronautical engineering curriculum and has been running successfully since then.
Stuttgart University in Germany was part of the original collaboration where Project AREND was founded. We have an exchange agreement with Stuttgart and have hosted 2 Masters students since 2014, with a new arrival anticipated late in 2019. The collaboration continues to be a very strong and fruitful partnership.
Aerial Monitoring Solutions (AMS)
Mr Adam Rosman from AMS has been an advocate and mentor to the AREND team since 2017. He and his team has spent many hours on design meetings with the team, mentoring students closely. AMS has not only spending a lot of time and resources ensuring the team is prepared and ready for flight tests, but also guiding them in terms of safety management.
Mr Dave Taylor at Epsilon Engineering has been critical to the manufacturing of the AREND UAV. Training and mentoring students in composite manufacturing and sponsoring moulds for the AREND airframe.
Mr Marius Cronje at Paramount Technologies coordinate, facilitates and promotes the AREND team amongst the UAV industry. The team has also guided the students in terms of flight safety and regulations required to fly UAVs in South Africa.
Collaboration with the UAV Group at the CSIR under John Monk has been very useful with students having the opportunity to do composite manufacturing training as well as mentorship sessions with the team.