Setting the scene for new disaster management

ORCHID's disaster response systemsGlobal internet outage, a virus outbreak and global warming are just some of the hypothetical disaster scenarios set to be created by an unusual collaboration between researchers at the University of Southampton and newly-appointed Leverhulme artists-in-residence.


The ORCHID programme, based in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University, investigates how human and software agents can effectively work together to collect the best possible information from a disaster environment. The team have been exploring the use of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) fitted with audio-visual equipment that can improve the response of emergency services and populations to disaster management.

Now the research group has been awarded funding to appoint two new artists-in-residence – Steve Beard and Victoria Halford – who will challenge the researchers to imagine new disaster scenarios that UAS technology may have to respond to.

The money to fund the artists’ work has been awarded by the Leverhulme Trust, which was established in 1925 under the Will of the First Viscount Leverhulme to provide resources to support scholarships for the purposes of research and education. The Trust provides funding for research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes across all academic disciplines. It aims to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training.

Head of ORCHID at Southampton, Professor Nick Jennings said:

“We are delighted to have Steve and Victoria on board to help us expand our outlook with regards to our research into the use of computer-driven UAS in managing disaster environments. By offering a creative perspective and striving to make the previously unknown visible, Steve and Victoria will challenge us to think the unthinkable and explore the effects on our research of many different kinds of alternative futures.

“Some of the scenarios that emerge may go beyond the expected to take in what at the present time appears science-fictional.”

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