A new £1.25 million arena for flying the next generation of aerial robots or drones is to be constructed at Imperial College London.

The global market value of unmanned aerial robot manufacturing is expected to reach an estimated $89 billion in the next 10 years. The robots have a range of potential applications, including search and rescue, wildlife conservation and inspection and repair of industrial facilities, particularly in hazardous environments. Drones are a well established tool of warfare.

Imperial aims to capitalise on its position as one of the UK’s leading centres for aerial robotics research with the development of a new state-of-the-art laboratory at its South Kensington campus.

The development of the facility has been made possible through a donation from Brahmal Vasudevan, an Imperial alumnus. Based in Malaysia, Vasudevan is the founder and chief executive officer of one of Asia’s leading private equity firms Creador.

The Brahmal Vasudevan Aerial Robotics Lab will consist of a two-storey laboratory and workshop, hosted by the City and Guilds building. It will have teaching facilities for undergraduates and postgraduates, housing a workshop for manufacturing aerial robots and an enclosed arena for safely carrying out test flights.

It will also be one of only a handful of facilities in the world that will be able to test hybrid aerial robots that can fly and then dive into water, which could be beneficial in the future for search and rescue missions.

Professor Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said: “Aerial robotics have a tremendous range of applications, and Imperial is well-equipped to play a pivotal role in this nascent industry."

Construction of the lab will begin in 2016.

Image credit: Imperial College London/Christian Richter