Research teams chosen to find disruptive ideas for Irish Defence Forces

 

Thursday, 17 February, 2022


Lt Niall Dungan, Irish Defence Forces, Dr Anna Donnla O Hagan, Dublin City University, Associate Prof Brian McNamee, UCD School of Computer Science. 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD and Minister for Defence and for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, have announced €2.4 million in funding to develop disruptive solutions to challenges facing the Irish Defence Forces.

Ten research teams have been shortlisted for the SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge. These teams will collaborate with the Defence Forces and compete for funding to develop disruptive solutions to a number of challenges identified by the Defence Organisation that are of broad relevance to society.

Ideas include a portable device that detects biological agents, AI technology to assist the Irish Air Corps fight wildfires, reducing the carbon footprint of its vehicle fleet to a novel prototype marine electric motor and a co-operative system that will allow a human controller and robot to work together to manoeuvre aircraft.

Announcing the scheme, Minister Harris said: "This is a really exciting announcement. Today’s announcement shows the value of a partnership between our research community and the Defence Forces. The innovation on display can help address existing and future challenges within our Defence Forces.

"There is a myriad of innovative ideas and expertise from machine learning and virtual reality to data analytics, engineering, and robotics. Today, the ten projects will be awarded funding to initiate their projects and one will secure €1 million in funding."

Congratulating the shortlisted teams, Minister Coveney said: From the time we launched this Challenge last July, I believed that it would confront emerging issues within the Defence Forces head-on, through the collaboration of leading researchers with the talented people behind our Defence Forces. At EU level, the role of innovation and disruptive technologies in delivering next generation military capability is already well recognised. I am looking forward to seeing the results that this synergy of innovators and practitioners under this challenge will undoubtedly generate for the Defence Forces going forward."

UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, Professor Orla Feely said: "I welcome this new research funding scheme through which excellent research in Irish universities will be applied in support of Ireland's Defence Organisations. The research supported under the scheme will address important challenges such as sustainability and environmental impact, and bring technological advances in areas such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and communications.

"I offer my congratulations to UCD's awardees and their colleagues, whose expertise will deliver disruptive new solutions for Ireland's Air Corps, Naval Service and Medical Corps, from the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Geotechnologies, Materials Science and Biosensors."

The UCD-led teams are:

Team: Electro Marine

Lead: Prof Denis DowlingUCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Co-Lead: Owen Humphreys, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Light-weight, high efficiency, electric propulsion solution for enabling zero emissions marine transport: This project aims to develop novel 3D printed electric motors along with power systems, for use on navy
rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Challenge: Disruptive Idea (across the areas of Medical Technologies, Disaster Relief, Peacekeeping, Climate and Sustainability, Information and Communications Technology (ICT)).

Primary Priority: Manufacturing and Novel Materials
Research Area: Engineering (Materials Science)


Team: MENTOR

Lead: Associate Prof Brian MacNameeUCD School of Computer Science

Co-Lead: Dr Anna Donnla O Hagan (DCU)

Machine Learning & Virtual Reality for Sustainable & Effective Pilot Training: Using machine learning to analyse data from virtual reality simulated pilot training to develop more effective, safer, and more sustainable pilot training programmes.

Challenge: Disruptive Idea (across the areas of Medical Technologies, Disaster Relief, Peacekeeping, Climate and Sustainability, Information and Communications Technology (ICT)).

Priority Area: Data Analytics, Management, Security, Privacy, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (including Machine Learning)
Research Area: Computer and Information Sciences (Artificial Intelligence)


Team: Fire Fly

Lead: Dr Gavin McArdleUCD School of Computer Science  
Co-Applicant: Associate Professor Michela Bertolotto, UCD School of Computer Science

Decision Support Systems for Aerial Fire-Fighting: Mission planning within aerial fire-fighting requires reliable, pertinent and up-to-date data. Terrain data,local weather forecasts, land cover, and water bodies’ locations are all needed to plan efficient and optimal aerial fire-fighting missions.

Challenge: Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the fire extinguishing capability of rotary-wing aircraft.

Priority Area: Future Networks, Communications and Internet of Things
Research Area: Computer and Information Sciences (Geotechnologies)


Team: Echem Sense

Lead: Dr Robert JohnsonUCD School of Chemistry  

Co-Lead: Prof Seamus FanningUCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Robust and Reusable Electrochemical DNA Biosensors for Point of Need Deployment: Highly sensitive electrochemical biosensor that is capable of the rapid detention and identification of food pathogens and gastro-intestinal viruses (that disrupt defence force activity)

Challenge: Disruptive Idea (across the areas of Medical Technologies, Disaster Relief, Peacekeeping, Climate and Sustainability, Information and Communications Technology (ICT)).

Priority area: Diagnostics

Research Area: Chemistry (Biosensors)  


Professor Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Challenge-based research funding empowers talented teams to address significant national and global challenges. This kind of collaboration between Government Departments, agencies such as the Defence Forces, companies, researchers, and entrepreneurs is just one of the ways science delivers real and tangible benefits for our society and economy.

“I want to commend each team on their hard work and dedication and wish them every success in the rest of the competition. Having this level of talent compete in this Challenge not only bodes well for this particular initiative but the future of scientific research more generally. I look forward to seeing the different solutions that develop as the competition continues.”

About the SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge

Challenge-based funding is a solution-focused approach to research funding that uses prizes, strict timelines, teamwork and competition to direct research activities at ambitious societal problems.

The Challenge consists of three phases: Concept, Seed and Prize Award. 10 successful teams were today awarded funding to initiate their projects. They will then undergo a rigorous progress review after 3 months and up to 5 shortlisted teams will be provided with further funding of €200k to validate and prototype their proposed solutions. Finalists will then compete for the overall prize award of €1m.

The teams are drawn from various disciplines, including computer science, mechanical engineering, and natural sciences. They bring forward a myriad of innovative ideas and expertise from machine learning and virtual reality to data analytics, engineering, and robotics.

For more visit www.sfi.ie/challenges/defence/.

Other SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge teams include:

Team Name

CoPilot-AI

Lead

Prof Tim McCarthy (Maynooth University)

Co-Lead

Prof John MacDonald (Maynooth University)

DefOrg Liaison

Comdt Jay O'Reilly (Irish Air Corps)

 

Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the fire extinguishing capability of rotary-wing aircraft.

Solution

Using Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence technologies, a new system capable of providing real-time information to responders in the air and on the ground will be developed to assist in managing wild fires.

 

Team Name

AltFuel4DF

Lead

Dr Ashish Vashishtha (Institute of Technology, Carlow)

Co-Lead

Dr Rory Monaghan (National University of Ireland, Galway)

DefOrg Liaison

Capt Aoife Shanley (Corps of Engineers)

Challenge/Disruptive Ideas

AltFuel4DF: Portable and Scalable Waste to Synthetic Biofuel Technology Demonstrator to Decarbonise Defence Force Transport

Solution

A novel, scalable and portable Inclined Rotary Gasifier system will be developed to convert waste to gaseous and liquid fuel.

 

Team Name

MISTRAL

Lead

Prof Holger Claussen (Tyndall National Institute)

Co-Lead

Dr Boris Galkin (Trinity College Dublin)

DefOrg Liaison

Capt Ken Lyons (CIS Corps)

Challenge/Disruptive Ideas

Aerial Communication System

Solution

MISTRAL will develop a network of flying, automated drones to provide reliable communications for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.

 

Team Name

itCArtIsAC

Lead

Dr David Culliton (IT Carlow)

Co-Lead

Dr James Garland (IT Carlow)

DefOrg Liaison

Lt Cmdr Clodagh McConnell (Irish Naval Service)

Challenge/Disruptive Ideas

Prevention and detection of water ingress to offshore patrol vessels

Solution

Machine learning techniques coupled with sensor data will be used to detect, monitor and predict the effects of water ingress on vessels.

 

Team Name

SafeGuard-Bio

Lead

Prof Lokesh Joshi (National University of Ireland)

Co-Lead

Dr Stephen Cunningham (National University of Ireland)

Challenge/Disruptive Ideas

Detection of multiple biological agents

Solution

A novel, rapid, inexpensive and portable device will be developed that allows for the detection and discrimination of multiple biological agents relevant to security and public health.

Team Name

SMART HANGAR

Lead

Prof Rozenn Dahyot (Maynooth University)

Co-Lead

Dr Marco Cognetti (Maynooth University)

DefOrg Liaison

Capt Tom Mullarkey (Irish Air Corps)

Challenge/Disruptive Ideas

Cyber-physical system to assist in, or potentially automate, manoeuvring of aircraft between a hangar and apron.

Solution

Smart Hangar will develop a co-operative system that will allow a human controller and robot to work together to manoeuvre aircraft.