Australian Defence Force Academy student contributes to Shoal research: Ground impact of unmanned aerial systems when they fail

Unmanned Aerial Systems debris research

SBLT Daniel Page joined Shoal for a three week Engineering Work Experience (EWE) placement, working on a research project with our Decision Support Analytics team in Adelaide. Usually based in Canberra, studying a degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of NSW, Daniel is a student of the Australian Defence Force Academy and will be joining the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Albatross at the conclusion of his studies.

“It is interesting to gain a perspective of Defence from the commercial side, understanding how a company operates and delivers to Defence. The organisational structure and reporting relationships are quite different,” says Daniel.

John Wharington, Principal Systems Engineer with Shoal, is leading the research project. They are applying Modelling, Simulation, and Analysis to better understand the ground impact of unmanned aerial systems when they fail.

“Models and simulations support the early design phase of systems by providing a tool to explore the system behaviour under different scenarios or circumstances,” says John. “In our research, we are using physics-based Modelling, Simulation, and Analysis, in both descriptive, numerical, and analytical models. It enables the testing of complex systems and concepts – without risk to the project, assets, infrastructure and, importantly, human life – and rapid iteration to enhance outcomes.”

This research activity investigates the use of novel algorithms for computing the statistics of debris fields from rocket launches and Uninhabited Aerial Systems experiencing critical mid-flight failures. Whereas traditionally such analyses rely on Monte Carlo sampling, which are slow to converge to an accurate solution, the new approaches show promise in reducing the computational load by orders of magnitude – studies taking days being then available in minutes. Shoal has demonstrated the approach on rocket launches and Daniel has extended this work into an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) undergoing a stable glide in its failure mode.

“I am using a programming language called Julia. It’s a steep learning curve and I’m really enjoying the challenge,” says Daniel. “I’ve been very fortunate to be working on a project that has a focus on drones and aerodynamics, so it is both applicable to my studies and my future work with Navy.”

Shoal expertly supports the early design phase of highly complicated systems across aerospace, defence, and within flight safety applications. Conducting this research builds upon Shoal’s legacy in range safety assessments, reinforcing its position as a provider of systems engineering and modelling services to manage safety to the public from a variety of vehicles including rockets, UAS, and emerging urban air mobility vehicles. The research is also applicable to quantifying the effectiveness of weapons systems.