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Making robot airplanes

Introduction

My name is Bilal Kaddouh and I am currently in the third year of my PhD at the University of Manchester. I have completed my BEng (Hons) with distinction in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the American University of Beirut in 2010, and then decided to concentrate on Robotics and Control, hence I did a MSc (Hons) in Robotics Engineering at King’s College London where I graduated with distinction in 2011. I am currently a Doctorate Candidate at the University of Manchester in the field of Aerospace Engineering. My main research area is concerned with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), in particular system and mission management, resources allocation, collaborative control and efficient planning.

I have worked for a year with Cummins Power Generation as a project application engineer which gave me an insight to real life work problems as well as a practical experience in applying my engineering knowledge to solve those problems. I was also responsible for delivering technical training to distributors all over Europe and the Middle East, this gave me a practical experience in teaching and conveying knowledge to students. 

Through my research I aim to design a method for efficiently managing multi UAV resources in the civil airspace under temporal and dynamic constraints. In simple words, given a set of required tasks that needs to be completed within a certain time window, I am creating a system of rules which allows a group of UAVs to decide what each UAV is going to be doing at each point in time so that all the required tasks are completed in the most efficient way while the UAVs are flying in a safe condition all the time.


In Depth

What is a UAV?

UAVs are airplanes without a pilot onboard. Their computational capabilities vary from simple remotely piloted airplanes to highly sophisticated autonomous flying platforms. They are essentially flying robots, and the aim of my research is to let the robots decide what to do to efficiently achieve various goals. UAVs can carry different sensors onboard, like cameras, infrared sensors, CO2 sensors, laser scanners, radars and so on. Due to current advancement in electronics UAVs possess an increasing level of computational power onboard for performing real time processing and decision making.

Why multiple UAVs?

UAVs are being used in various civilian applications such as remote sensing, aerial photography, crop health monitoring, emergency response, firefighting, atmospheric studies and many more. Many applications in the civilian world involve multiple teams working on the ground together in real time to accomplish a certain mission such as disaster management and relief, large event management security protection and crowd control, emergency services, firefighting ... A Multi User Multi UAV system is important for real time data gathering, in particular for live aerial imagery. When talking about a multi user application we are not considering single task multi users we are focusing on multi task multi users which gives users different task options to choose from.

Currently all commercial UAV operations models are built around one user flying one UAV. People are now slowly introducing UAVs into various applications for the added value it brings to any operation. Current trend of research has been focusing on moving from multiple operators managing one UAV to one operator managing many UAVs and therefore we find contributions in the operator situational awareness systems, in task allocation systems and in real time data processing. We will probably get to a point where UAVs are allowed to fly autonomous missions under certain rules and regulations enforced by the appropriate aviation authority. When we get to that stage, systems allowing one user to control multiple UAVs would be desirable.

What is the problem?

As a UAV operator, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made in terms of what sensors to install and how to plan and execute the required mission safely and efficiently. The problem gets complicated when multiple versatile UAVs are to be used especially when deciding on which ones to use and what factors to consider and so on. Therefore, the workload faced by the operator is overwhelming. With the flexibility and diversity available in a multi UAV system, it becomes impossible for an operator to take all those decisions in a timely manner and in an efficient way. Computerized automatic resource management systems are designed to answer those questions.

What is my approach?

The future

Technology is developing fast and many advancements are not yet accessible to the public. Effective management systems of multiple UAVs will allow this cutting-edge technology to be utilized by everyone. Instead of having to own and learn how to control a UAV yourself and having limited resources on your particular machine, soon you will be able to benefit from the numerous services of a UAV simply by using an app on your mobile phone or by visiting a website. The key for succeeding in a UAV resource sharing system is an efficient resource allocation system, and that’s where my research comes in.


Going Further

For more information about UoM UAV Research Group: http://uavs.mace.manchester.ac.uk/

For more information about aerospace system group: http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/aerospace-engineering/specialisms/aerospace-systems/

For more information about studying aerospace: http://www.mace.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/aerospace-engineering/meng-aerospace-engineering-4years/

Some ted talks about UAVs:

https://www.ted.com/talks/andreas_raptopoulos_no_roads_there_s_a_drone_for_that

http://www.ted.com/talks/raffaello_d_andrea_the_astounding_athletic_power_of_quadcopters?language=en

A video indicating the simplicity and important usages of UAVs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9n0TRpcIw8


 

Recreating the conditions inside the sun

Introduction

Hello! My name is Asad and I’m a PhD student at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. Within my PhD, I work in the relatively recent field of nuclear fusion. More specifically, I look at the effects of plasma damage and neutron irradiation (both known phenomenon that occur within nuclear fusion) on materials that could be used to build a potential fusion reactor.

A little bit about my background first. Before I embarked on my PhD, I completed a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Mechanical Engineering with a minor focus on Nuclear Engineering. I also did some part time study in mathematics and research projects within fluid mechanics. Of the latter, a noteworthy one is that I constructed a mathematical model of the acoustics of a banjo!


In Depth

Science has always intrigued mankind. Some of the foremost questions we have been obsessed with are the simple ones:

·  “Where did we come from?”

·  “Why are we here?”

·  “What do we do?”

No matter who you ask, you will realise that we still don’t really know the answers to these; whether we look for philosophical reasoning or scientific. We search high and low for answers. Our universe is at the centre of such research. And at the centre of our universe: the sun.

The sun can be considered a giant ball of energy. The manner in which this energy is generated is referred to as nuclear fusion. As the human species observed this, we felt the urge to exploit the process to aid our need for energy, in order to survive on a world where resources are rapidly depleting.

What exactly is nuclear fusion? The answer is a result of work done by pioneering scientists such as Ernest Rutherford, Pierre Curie and Marie Curie. We find that certain atoms of elements undergo interesting transitions. We have been able to exploit these, such as nuclear fission which is currently a dominant process to generate electricity. Within fission, we find that under the right conditions, some of the atoms will split and become smaller releasing energy in the process. Fusion is the opposite; some atoms combine and through the process release energy. It has been found that the energy released through fusion could potentially be more sustainable, cleaner, and less fraught with the risks associated with the energy generated through fission. 

Thus we are now engaged in a global technological race to be able to achieve the right conditions for fusion on earth. Thus far we have managed to recreate the conditions. However, we still haven’t managed to be able to maintain these for long enough, nor have we been able to extract power from it. We have some ideas on how to achieve both. One of the questions however is, do we have the materials to be able to do so?


This is where people like me come in. Thus far I have spoken about how this is a relatively new process mingled with a plethora of difficulties. Therefore, it will not be surprising when I say that we don’t exactly have the appropriate facilities to be able to entirely comprehend the extreme effects taking place. So how do we go about solving the problem? Some people try and use proxies, alternative approaches that in some way mimic certain effects we expect. Others try to use computational techniques and our understanding of physics to paint a picture. I’m involved in the latter. I use modelling and simulation to try and deduce what we expect. It isn’t as simple as pushing a button however. One needs to be aware of a lot of inter-related pieces of physics. Sometimes, we also find that we don’t have the computational power to actually be able to process all of these (surprising isn’t it given the progress in the field of IT).  Sometimes my job is therefore to see which processes are negligible. At other times, it is to check and draw conclusions from the results of my simulations. To name a few of the techniques I use; I use solvers for the neutron transport equation, binary collision approximation and molecular dynamics. The last considers how atoms are likely to behave. This generates some interesting perceptions of important chemical and atomic processes.

I’ll stop here. I’ll end on a note that the human race is currently engaged in very exciting things. But to see this realised; we need young, ambitious and creative minds that are keen to learn as well as try new things. 


Going Further

If you want any more information, please feel free to contact me at: asad.hussain@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk . 

To find out more about the chemical and atomic processes generated in molecular dynamics: http://lammps.sandia.gov/movies.html

A more comprehensive yet elementary guide on nuclear physics can be found at (http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuccon.html)

Here are also some web links pertinent to what I have written: 

Culham Center for Fusion Energy: http://www.ccfe.ac.uk/introduction.aspx

Nuclear Energy Agency: http://www.oecd-nea.org/workareas/

Fusion Center for Doctoral Training: http://www.york.ac.uk/fusion-cdt/


 

Exercise as a form of treatment for mental illness

Introduction

My name is Joe and I’ve just begun the 2nd year of my PhD in Medicine. I am researching how we can use physical exercise to improve people’s mental health. Specifically, I work with young people (from 18 years onwards), who are experiencing serious mental health problems for the first time in their lives – a condition which is referred to as “First Episode Psychosis”. I am investigating whether specially designed physical exercise routines can help people with First Episode Psychosis to feel healthier; in the body, and also in the mind. 


In Depth

What is First Episode Psychosis

First Episode Psychosis is the first 5 years of any ‘psychotic disorder’, such as Schizophrenia. This affects around 1 in 100 people, and most often starts around the age of 18. The most recognisable symptoms of first-episode psychosis are hearing voices, seeing things which other people cannot see (hallucinations), delusional beliefs and paranoia. Along with these, there are often less obvious symptoms of people severely lacking in motivation, feeling depressed, withdrawing from society and becoming reclusive.

Current Treatment

The most common treatment for first-episode psychosis is antipsychotic medications: There are tablets that sufferers can take which greatly reduce the symptoms of hearing voices, delusions etc. However, people taking these tablets often relapse within a few years, or need higher and higher doses overtime for them to remain effective. Furthermore, antipsychotics do not help with the symptoms of social withdrawal and inability to feel motivated. Unfortunately, it is these unseen symptoms which can really prevent people from living a happy and fulfilling life.

What do I Investigate?

I am investigating whether we can use physical exercise for first-episode psychosis, as an extra treatment for all the different types of symptoms so that they need fewer medications and feel better overall in life. To do this, people with first-episode psychosis are sent to me from their mental health service. I design them a special exercise routine and then take them to the gym twice-per-week for 10 weeks to train with them. In the exercise sessions, we do running, rowing and cycling to work on their fitness, and also weight training to work on the muscles. Past research has shown that these sorts of training can make people feel better, happier and more motivated – even in normal healthy people. It has never been tried for First Episode Psychosis (even though these are the people who may need it most!).

To see if it has worked, we score peoples’ mental health using a psychiatric interview before they start the 10 weeks of training, and then score them again after the 10 weeks to check if they have improved. I also look at peoples’ physical health, fitness, social life and brain functioning, as exercise is known to be able to help with these things too. If proven effective, exercise may eventually become part of NHS treatment programs for first-episode psychosis, and be available to any young person who is in need of treatment, like a new form of therapy! 


Going Further

If you want to know more about first-episode psychosis in general, such as what causes it, what it does, here is a great place to start: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/psychosis/first_episode_psychosis_information_guide/Pages/first_episode_psychosis_information_guide.aspx

For more information about my specific experiment, you can find the full details of the clinical trial here: http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN09150095/

If you’re interested in which physical exercise can improve mental health, this article goes through many different ways in which it may do this:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html


 

How to read minds...almost

by YPU Admin on March 5, 2015, Comments. Tags: behaviour, employability, MHLS, mind, mindreading, postgrad, psychology, and Research

"You study Psychology? Does this mean that you know what I’m thinking?"

This is a common response when I tell people what I do. The general public seem to be fascinated by Psychology. Concepts from Psychology are part of our everyday language and form the basis of many television programmes. Yet as Psychology is a very diverse field, many people only have a vague idea of what a Psychology researcher, student, or professional might actually be doing with their time.


What is Psychology?

Psychology is a vast field of study that can basically be summarised as the study of the mind and behaviour. This captures a number of related but varied disciplines. The School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester offer degrees in Psychology, Audiology and Speech and language therapy. Researchers in the school are working on projects that can span from the development of hearing aids, to the factors which influence somebody’s preferences for particular products. 


Studying Psychology 

Studying Psychology as an undergraduate involves a three year programme which offers a broad introduction to the field. As students progress through the course they can choose modules which allow them to follow their developing interests. Psychology students gain scientific research skills throughout the course and complete their own research project in the final year.  


What can I do with a degree in Psychology? 

15-20% of students who study Psychology as an undergraduate will go on to continue studying for a postgraduate qualification. Examples of postgraduate training courses include Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology and Occupational Psychology. Alternatively, students may consider completing further research training such as a PhD, in which they focus on a specific research project over several years.

Students who do not decide to continue training in Psychology may pursue opportunities such as training as an occupational therapist, working for the police or in human resources.  The skills in critical thinking, communication and problem solving that students develop over the course of their Psychology degree are valued by many employers.

There are further benefits to studying Psychology beyond enhancing your career prospects. For example, Psychology can teach you a great deal about yourself and how you interact with people and the world around you. A degree in Psychology can help you understand the limits of how much you can remember, why your eyes plays tricks on you, or why you are drawn to particular options in the supermarket. You may not finish the three years with mind reading abilities, but you will have an improved understanding of how we navigate our world.  


Going further

The School of Psychological Sciences website provides information about studying Psychology at the University of Manchester http://www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk/

The British Psychological Society’s website provides information about degrees and careers in Psychology, including further information about Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology and Occupational Psychology http://www.bps.org.uk/careers-in-psychology

The following website offers synopses of interesting developments in Psychology research: http://mindhacks.com/

A series of videos in which lecturers from the University of Manchester discuss common misconceptions about Psychology can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNGSLqZab4TkgY8cnJQxgtA