The University of Southampton
Engineering and the EnvironmentPostgraduate study

Mike Emptage MSc Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design

Design Engineer, Rotron

Mike Emptage's Photo

The most enjoyable aspect of the course was the group design module, as we were given the opportunity and resources to design and build a small unmanned aerial vehicle (up to 7 kg). We were encouraged to be as innovative as possible and had great support in achieving our goals.

Can you provide a brief summary of your time at Southampton?

I started the course in September 2015 after 7 years’ employment as an Air Engineer Officer in the Royal Navy. I completed all the academic modules between September 2015 and April 2016, and I had the opportunity to tailor my module choices to that of my academic objectives. Concurrently to this was the Group Design Project, where I led a small team to design, build, test and operate a 7 kg fully autonomous UAV over a 6 month period. Towards the end of the MSc was the individual project, which I have recently handed my dissertation in for.

What has been the highlight of your time as a Southampton student so far?

Flying out to Portugal to operate the UAV that I had designed and built from scratch, in order to conduct Infra-red mapping of a crop field.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

The most enjoyable aspect of the course was the group design module, as we were given the opportunity and resources to design and build a small UAV (up to 7 kg). We were encouraged to be as innovative as possible and had great support in achieving those goals.

What are your supervisors/tutors like? Have you found them supportive?

All the supervisors and academic staff were friendly and happy to assist, sharing their variety of experiences and expert knowledge.

How have the facilities available at the University helped you with your research?

I lived off-campus and so the ability to download the majority of the software packages for use on my personal computers was excellent, enabling me to work from home on occasions. There are lots of manufacturing facilities which are readily accessible, such as 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines.

Can you summarise the research you undertook within your course?

My individual project is to conduct a computational design analysis of a UAV wing structure in order to determine why a certain type of damage is being caused during flight. This required completion of complex Finite Element Analysis on Abaqus, culminating in a redesign of the wing.

What are your current career plans?

My career plan is to become a Design Engineer within a UAV based company. I have since been employed by Rotron, a company which designs and manufactures rotary engines for UAV applications, as a Design Engineer.

What advice would you offer to potential MSc students?

Choose modules and individual projects that will provide the knowledge and experience to enable you to find employment in the field you are interested in.

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