Ryerson to develop drone software

Ryerson has formed a partnership with Presagis, a leading software company for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that will allow engineering students to explore new ways of piloting automated drones.

The research project will provide industry standard software for students to develop digital control schemes for use across various platforms in flight simulation.

“What we’re looking at for Ryerson is to harness the up-and -coming generation of people who have been raised on video games and essentially coming up with a fresh new look at how to interact with a computer system,” says Stéphane Blondin, vice-president of product managing and marketing at the company.

One of the key projects that students will be involved in is the development of “glass cockpits” for use in flying and controlling various aircraft from ground stations.


A Ryerson aerospace engineering student tests a flight simulator program. (Dillon Li / Ryersonian staff)

It replaces the traditional style of buttons, dials, and gauges found in aircraft today with tablet-like features, multi-touch and gestures.

It is a technology that is still in development for use in practical situations for pilots.

“It’s easy to control your tablet when you’re sitting on a couch but when you’re sitting inside of an aircraft that is in motion, that can be going through turbulence, there are a lot of people doing research about what is risky and kind of moves and operations can be used to be controlled by touch gestures,” Blondin says.

The use of UAVs is not limited to military operations. Drones have been used in agriculture for surveying fields to determine mosture content, to fertilize or monitor disease. Other uses include monitoring pipelines, or observing sensitive areas such as nuclear reactors.

Students will be taught to develop special “reconfigurable instrument panels” that will allow UAVs to perform various duties or missions that are assigned to it.

The collaboration, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), will provide students a “more intimate knowledge of the challenges that the aerospace and defence industry faces,” Blondin says.

“Ryerson students will have a great head start as they come to the market because they will know some of the most popular and used tools in the industry.”

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