Published: 04 May 2020 | Last Updated: 04 May 2020 16:49:35

An innovative tracking system developed by Professor Alan Wilson and his research team at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has won a European Research Council (ECR) Proof of Concept grant, paving the way for further research which could contribute to the development of more sophisticated human navigation systems.

This dynamically augmented navigation system (DYANS) system was developed to track fast-moving animals in the wild in order to better understand their locomotion, hunting and ranging behaviour. Using information about speed and heading collected by sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers, during legged locomotion, the navigation system can independently calculate position and time, otherwise known as ‘track’. Combining this track information with quality-checked GPS fixes will improve accuracy and continuity of position tracking for wild animals.

Cheetah wearing RVC tracking collar
Cheetah wearing an RVC tracking collar in Botswana.

The ECR Proof of Concept grant is exclusively awarded to projects which are developed from scientifically excellent ECR-funded research. The grants are worth €150,000 each, and can be used to leverage business opportunities, prepare patent applications or verify the practical viability of scientific concepts, in order to explore the commercial and societal potential of research results.

Professor Alan Wilson, Professor of Locomotor Biomechanics and head of the Structure and Motion Lab at the RVC said: “The need to know the precise location of individuals – whether humans or animals – has become ubiquitous. Systems currently used for tracking humans and animals depend on global navigation satellite systems developed for aircraft, cars and boats. These systems do not provide reliable position information when GPS is inaccurate or unavailable, and currently, most users have no alternative electronic means of navigation.

“We are delighted that our research has won this ECR Proof of Concept Grant. This award demonstrates the continued value of the RVC’s work to the wider scientific community. We hope that the DYANS system can pave the way for new forms of navigation and tracking, and we would like to thank the ECR for this opportunity to develop the work further.”

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About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It was the first in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
  • The RVC is the top veterinary school in the UK and Europe, and ranked as the world’s second highest veterinary school in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2020.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
  • A research led institution with 79% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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