Defence technologies of the future

Drone -remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)
The benefits for the RPA industry in the UK and elsewhere are considerable.

The University of Birmingham shares how it has advanced knowledge and proficiency in the development of defence technologies.

The University of Birmingham has developed significant expertise in the advancement, and uses, of defence technologies.

University of Birmingham's Metamaterails Hydro Lab
University of Birmingham’s Metamaterails Hydro Lab.

This interdisciplinary approach to research both in terms of policy and engineering enables organisations collaborating with the university to benefit from the latest technological developments set in the wider context of regulation and adaption.

The wide range of research being conducted in this area demonstrates the continuing relevance and applicability of this technology to both military and civilian contexts.

The work of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security focuses on both the security implications of the military deployment of drones and how drones can be used in civilian, commercial, and humanitarian operations.

How the technology can be developed and adapted to maximise capabilities in these very different fields is a key question the university is investigating and would like to discuss and collaborate further with civilian and military partners.

The findings of the Birmingham Policy Commission on ‘The Security Impact of Drones’, have particular resonance for industry and manufacturers in terms of affordability, compatibility, and regulation.

University of Birmingham's Intelligent Robotics Lab
University of Birmingham’s Intelligent Robotics Lab.

Technological innovation and the related release of funding resources in the military sphere are driven by operational need, which can be capricious.

At the opening of Parliament in May, the Government undertook to deliver a full strategic defence and security review, the outcome of which is likely to be published later this year.

This document, along with the National Security Strategy, will outline the UK’s strategic objectives and will indicate the level of future investment in remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) systems.

The benefits for the RPA industry in the UK and elsewhere are considerable, as developments like Sense and Avoid and greater degrees of automation become established as never before.

As they do, the University of Birmingham will be at the forefront of those developments, exploiting the opportunities and analysing the implications for public and policy makers alike.

Manufacturing expertise at the University of Birmingham:

Human Interface Technology (HIT)

The HIT team at the University of Birmingham has been pioneering the development of virtual/augmented reality and telepresence/telerobotics technologies, with more than 30 years’ experience in simulation, robotics and human factors.

The HIT team focus on aerospace, defence and healthcare to provide training aids, remote control systems and interfaces, rehabilitation and systems to optimise the human users’ effectiveness with technology.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology at Birmingham (SB²) brings a truly multidisciplinary approach to the challenges and opportunities offered in this area identified as an important growth sector by the UK Government.

Researchers from Biosciences; Chemistry; Chemical Engineering; Geography & Earth Sciences; Electrical & Electronic Engineering; Medical School; Law; Materials & Metallurgy, and Mechanical Engineering have built collaborations to develop synthetic biology solutions for the development of novel materials (Smart Materials, personal protection); diagnosis & detection; energy/energy harvesting, and high sensitivity biosensors.

Quantum Technology & Metamaterials

The EPSRC Quantum Technology Hub for Metrology and Sensing and its partners in industry and academia are working together to exploit the capability of quantum technology for many sectors including defence, utilities and communications.

Physicists and engineers are collaborating to develop applications for this technology that include gravity sensors that are able to ‘see through’ solid matter and an optical lattice clock several orders of magnitude more accurate than the currently available technology.

The Meta Materials Group, located in the School of Physics and Astronomy is looking at the optical and acoustic properties of materials with negative refractive indices with applications as disruptive as an invisibility cloak and acoustic cloaking of audible signatures to enhance health and safety or increase stealth.

Robotics & AI

The Intelligent Robotics Lab at the University of Birmingham work on a range of fields including the development of algorithms to enable robots to learn, see, communicate and plan.

Expertise includes computer vision (currently running one of the worlds most sophisticated visual tracking algorithms) and manipulation (allowing robots to learn new shapes/objects, and plan how best to grip and lift them autonomously).

Research into robotics applications for the security sector has also been developed, examining how robotic platforms can carry out patrol duties usually undertaken by a human.

Cyber Security

The Computer Security & Privacy Group at the University of Birmingham is one of GCHQs Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security.

Research is undertaken in critical underpinning technologies such as cryptography; security for cloud computing; hardware & software security; web & network security; e-voting; verification, and data authentication protocols.

Current projects on Industrial Control Systems with a focus on the energy and transport sectors and connectivity of devices for the automotive industry show the everyday applications of cyber security and its crucial role in modern society.

Space Environment and Radio Frequency Engineering

The underpinning research theme of this group is to measure, model, and mitigate the effects of the ionosphere on radio systems such as GPS, high frequency communications and radars.

Current activities include the development of a satellite payload to measure the ionospheric effects on future space radar systems. This research is supported by a DSTL/RAEng-sponsored chair who undertakes projects in collaboration with a range of organisations.

Materials Research

Lighter aircraft require less fuel, so we are working on lighter materials for aerospace and defence applications.

Our materials research is addressing challenges in magnets for electricity generation/distribution, personal and platform protection and materials for hydrogen storage.

We are also refining novel processing techniques to reduce energy use and waste in the manufacture and repair of components.

Netshape Manufacturing

Our Netshape Centre is host to one of the Country’s most well equipped laboratories of its kind.

We have formed strategic partnerships with many multi-national companies involved in the design and build of next-generation engines and airframes.

University of Birmingham Contact DetailsWe are pioneering research into new materials and production processes for aircraft and defence components, minimising energy use in manufacture while reducing overall weight.

Communications, Microwave Devices and Systems

We have a broad range of research centered on the applications of microwave technology into communications and radar, and on novel aspects of network design with research funding from the EU, research councils, MoD and industry.

Research covers both basic science and applications. An example of basic science is the work on materials such as dielectrics, ferroelectrics and superconductors.