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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V031848/1
Title: DroneNoise: Addressing Public Health and Wellbeing Harms for a Sustainable Drone Sector
Principal Investigator: Martinez, Dr AJT
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd DronePrep Nesta
The Noise Abatement Society University of Bristol Virginia Polytec Inst & State University
Department: Sch of Computing, Science & Engineering
Organisation: University of Salford
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 July 2021 Ends: 30 September 2023 Value (£): 285,465
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Acoustics Aerodynamics
Music & Acoustic Technology Robotics & Autonomy
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Apr 2021 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 April 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is currently a risk that drones are taking to the air without sufficient consideration of their noise impact on public health and wellbeing. Government and industry agree that drone technologies will lead to a significant business opportunity. Drones are expected to support an efficient provision of public services, and therefore deliver substantial societal benefits. But there is a very real barrier to making this a reality - none of this can happen if noise issues are not taken care of at design, operation and policy levels.

The pandemic crisis has served to propel the use of drones to deliver food and medicines. It is now more certain that drone technologies will be widely adopted in the short future for a range of applications from parcel delivery to transport of people. These applications are set to grow thanks to the EC U-space and UK Future Flight initiatives, which are creating a clear framework to allow the creating of a market for drone services. However, the noise of hundreds of drones flying around will certainly lead to conflicts with communities.

To date, there is not a comprehensive understanding on how drone noise is perceived and what can be done to operate drones without affecting public health and wellbeing. Noise is already a serious issue. As reported by the European Environment Agency, environmental noise already causes approximately 16,600 cases of premature death in Europe each year, with almost 32 million adults suffering annoyance and over 13 million adults suffering sleep disturbance.

Assessing noise perception of drones and developing actions to mitigate their impact on communities is challenging, due to their unconventional sound signatures and operating procedures. Standard measures of sound power (proposed in EU Regulation 2019/945) are inadequate to characterise this. But it's also an opportunity to innovate in the way transportation noise issues are dealt with.

In this project, I will develop models to predict human response to drone noise. Integrated into the design cycle, these perception noise models will allow to noise issues to be anticipated early in the design process. This approach will avoid costly and inefficient ad hoc corrections at later stages, and therefore, will go beyond the traditional approach on aircraft noise assessment.

I will investigate how context influences drone noise perception. People won't perceive a drone delivering a parcel to their neighbours equally to a drone providing medical supplies. Furthermore, I will investigate noise annoyance and audibility for a comprehensive set of drone operating conditions, to define acceptable noise characteristics for drone operations. The outcomes of my project will inform how and where to fly drones to minimise impact on existing soundscapes.

The work in my project will be connected to industry design, policy making and organisations lobbing for noise abatement, through a steering group with the main drone stakeholders. I will develop a toolkit to aid manufacturers to reduce the noise impact of their vehicles. Developing quiet technologies will give the UK drone industry, which has over 700 entities, an edge in a highly competitive market both domestic & overseas. I will also write a policy brief to inform regulations for operating drones with less impact on people's health and wellbeing. Regulations for quiet drone operations would allow greater usage for the benefit of the people in the UK.

The outcomes of my project are planned to have direct impact in the small-to-medium size drone market, and set the foundations for potential future impact in drones for transport of people.

In summary, my work will address the noise issues related to the design and operation of drones, to aid drone stakeholders to ensure community acceptance, and contribute to the sustainable expansion of the sector. This will contribute to maintain the UK world-leading position on drone research and development.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.salford.ac.uk