UWS has been shortlisted for a prestigious Times Higher Education Award for its ground-breaking AI drone technology partnership with multinational firm Thales.

Recognised in the Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year category, the technology developed as part of the collaboration has the potential to save lives by identifying missing people.

The system uses advanced cameras and neural computer networks to spot someone it’s searching for, and can identify specific individuals who appear as a ‘speck’ in the distance. The technology, which is the first of its kind used by police forces in the UK, is a form of machine learning providing real-time image analysis for identifying humans.

We are delighted to have been recognised by Times Higher Education for our ground-breaking Knowledge Transfer Partnership project. It has been fantastic to work with such forward-thinking and innovative organisations in THALES and CENSIS to deliver this truly life-saving AI drone technology. I extend my congratulations to the teams involved for being shortlisted for this prestigious accolade. UWS is the number one university in Scotland for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, and top three in the UK, so we are extremely proud to highlight once again our important work in this area.

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of UWS

The partnership was facilitated by CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems – one of eight Innovation Centres backed by the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government to foster closer collaboration between academic researchers and industry.

As a result of the project, UWS has been able to build a remarkable 20-strong international academic team, providing the UK economy with artificial intelligence-driven business solutions, such as remote emergency medicine services for the Irish Ambulance Service, smart street lighting solutions for Romania and the leadership of two 20-partner European projects to develop 5G network management solutions to a value of €15 million.  

The project also benefited from other collaborations, notably with National Air Traffic Services, whose partnership with UWS on a number of drone-related industry projects, such as a €5 million Horizon 2020 project, helped inform their use in this one.

This project demonstrates the benefits of AI and machine learning in saving people’s lives. We have previously been part of a CENSIS/UWS project and this current project has strengthened our links and enabled us to work with other academics. Collaborations like these enable Thales to develop new capabilities and improved product functionality.

Dr Barry Connor, Technology and Innovation Lead at Thales

The winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on 26 November.