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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study

Why get an MSc in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design

Unmanned Aircraft (UA), also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Drones, are a disruptive technology that has permeated across the military-civilian divide.

The worldwide market for these devices over the period (2012 - 2022) has been forecast by the Teal Group to be worth £55bn.1

The UK is particularly active in the commercial UA field. It boasts one of the largest number of manufacturers in the EU.2

"It looks inevitable that in the near future, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have already risen to high prominence in the military sector, will become standard tools in the commercial sphere. In contrast to the slower dynamics of manned platforms, the Unmanned Systems Market-including its air, ground and sea segments, is facing accelerated changes and significant growth."3

In particular the market for civil applications for UAV technology is predicted to grow more rapidly than military applications when, as expected, new airspace regulations and certification rules are defined and accepted in 2016.4 Recent developments under the Smart Skies project have shown how manned and unmanned aircraft will be able to share large and complex regions of airspace.5

The UK has recently launched the third phase of the £62 million ASTREA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) programme aimed at proving technologies to allow it to pave the way for commercial UASs to operate autonomously in non-segregated airspace within the next decade.6

A recent paper cites examples of routine civil use of UAVS for coffee harvest optimisation, vineyard frost protection, irrigation and crop management and surveying.7


1 Teal Group (2011) “Teal Group Predicts Worldwide UAV Market Will Total US$89 Billion in Its 2012 UAV Market Profile and Forecast.” Available from:

2 European Commission (2012) “Towards a European strategy for the development of civil applications of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).” Available from:

3 Global Information (2006) “The UAV Market Report”, Global Information Inc., 195 Farmington Avenue, Suite 305 Farmington, CT 06032 USA.

4 Frost and Sullivan (2009), “UAV Report”, August.

5 Flight International (2010) “UAV airspace sharing moves forward with Australia's Smart Skies project", 19th May 2010.

6 IHS (2014), “ASTRAEA partners embark on new phase.” Available from:

7 Ross, P. E. (2014). Open-source drones for fun and profit. Spectrum, IEEE, 51(3), 54-59.

UAV activities at the University of Southampton
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