Charities could be set to benefit from the drone research in their work helping wildlife and monitoring the environment.
Research to enable drones to be used by environmental and conservation charities to monitor natural disasters and stop animal poaching has received charitable trust backing.
The Turner-Kirk Charitable Trust has donated £15,000 to set up the Turner-Kirk UAV (unmanned aviation vehicles) Research Support Programme, which will look at ways to extend the battery life of drones for use in hostile and remote environments.
Once tested and available the drones can be used by environmental groups to monitor dangerous natural disasters such as forest fires. Another intended use is to help conservation charities to track endangered animals and monitor poaching activity.
The programme is being run by the University of Southampton, whose alumni include Turner-Kirk Charitable Trust Director Dr Ewan Kirk.
"In the future, it is totally possible that remote and hostile environments worldwide will be constantly monitored by UAVs, feeding back live data to environmental agencies, so we can track our global ecosystem in real-time,” said tech entrepreneur Kirk.
"The application of technology is vital to mitigating environmental changes and the conservation of endangered animals, and universities, which are hotbeds for ideas and innovation, have an important role to play in developing the technology needed."
Trust Co-Director Dr Patricia Turner added: “Conservation and environmental degradation is one of the most important and urgent challenges that we face. It is critically important that universities and researchers have the funds at their disposal to find new, creative technology solutions to these urgent problems.”
The funding being used by groups of students within the university’s engineering department. They are also looking at cost effective ways to adapt existing drones for more remote and extreme environments.
The team are to monitor a live volcano using their research next year.
Dr. Mario Ferraro, Senior Enterprise Fellow in the engineering department at the University of Southampton, said: "Until now, there’s simply not been enough research in this area, and as we all feel the effects of climate change, from widespread flooding to forest fires, the importance of this type of technology matters more than ever."