press release
Published: 22 November 2021

Support given to Surrey AI satellite project to explore autonomous navigation in space

Researchers from the University of Surrey are one step closer to making an affordable and reliable autonomous navigation system for small satellites a reality, thanks to new support from the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme.

Image of a satellite in space, with the earth beneath it

The Surrey AISat project, led by Principal Investigator Professor Yang Gao and involving post-doctoral researcher Dr Daniel Hao, is developing state-of-the-art machine learning technology and hardware that will allow small satellites to navigate their way in low-Earth orbit by themselves.

The Surrey team envision the technology being used on future space debris removal missions or as a guidance system to help spacecraft, such as the Starlink communication satellite constellation, avoid potential collisions with other space objects.

The Surrey team will use the support from ICURe to explore commercialisation opportunities for their project.

The Surrey Centre for Innovation and Commercialisation (SCIC) helped Professor Gao and her team through the detailed ICURe programme process and has continued to help the team explore opportunities with industry.

Professor Yang Gao, project lead of Surrey AISat and Professor of Space Autonomous Systems at the University of Surrey, said:

"Our visual perception and navigation technology offers superior performance in cost efficiency and resilience for space applications, ranging from active debris removal to in-orbit manufacturing. The Surrey team is very grateful to the ICURe programme and our business advisors from Satellite Applications Catapult, Dr Ashweeni Beeharee, Nasreen Dhanji and Dr Eddie Ross, for their timely and professional support of our project. We are determined to pursue the commercial spin-out and exploitation plan of this UK technology."

Dr William Lovegrove, Director of Innovation Strategy at the University of Surrey, said: “Surrey has a long and proud tradition of creating multiple high-value start-ups which have originated from world-class research carried out within the Surrey Space Centre. This team is building on that impressive legacy and will take it to new heights. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Prof Gao and her team on their achievements to date and also acknowledge the excellent commercialisation support work provided by SCIC.”

Patrick Degg, Vice President (External Engagement) at the University of Surrey, said:

"The University of Surrey is dedicated to research and innovation that helps shape the world for the better, and this support, secured with the help of our new Surrey Centre for Innovation and Commercialisation, will allow us to continue our long tradition of translating cutting-edge research into commercial success."

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