Cranfield University academic receives prestigious engineering fellowship

Dr Yifan Zhao

Dr Yifan Zhao, FHEA SMIEEE, Reader in Data Science, Centre for Life-cycle Engineering and Management at Cranfield University (Source: Cranfield University).

(Press release Cranfield University:) Cranfield, 20 March 2023 - Dr Yifan Zhao, Reader in Data Science at Cranfield University, has received an Industrial Fellowship from The Royal Academy of Engineering.

Through the Fellowship, and in partnership with construction and civil engineering company BAM Nuttall, Dr Zhao will use artificial intelligence (AI) and a digital twin of construction machinery to help improve energy efficiency in the sector. This is potentially a way for the industry to achieve targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and fuel consumption by 33%, set out in the Construction 2025 industrial strategy.

Digital twin technology is a digital replica of a physical asset or system that can be used to simulate and predict the behaviour and performance of the real-world counterpart. The digital twin concept of construction machinery will aim to improve individual driver’s performance based on the ground condition of the site and the activities of surrounding machinery. The solution could be extended to future hybrid and electric vehicles for construction, building on the learnings from this project.

Dr Zhao has over 20 years of experience in image and signal processing, computer vision and AI for degradation assessment and anomaly detection of complex engineering systems. These technologies can monitor key assets on construction sites, carry out non-destructive testing for high-value engineering components, monitor driver behaviour both human and automated, and assist with medical data and image processing.

Power of research intelligence and industry experience

Arjun Thiru, Innovate Manager at BAM Nuttall said: ‘BAM UK and Ireland have been working with Cranfield University for over four years in construction research, development, and innovation. Working with Yifan Zhao has been truly inspirational. Our collaboration shows the power of bringing together fundamental research intelligence and deep construction industry experience. We look forward to this exciting chapter and hosting Yifan as a RAEng Industrial Fellowship at BAM UK and Ireland.’

Dr Yifan Zhao said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious fellowship. This project will expand the existing partnership between Cranfield University and BAM on leveraging digital technologies, particularly Digital Twins and Artificial Intelligence, to address the challenges of productivity, sustainability, and net-zero targets for the construction industry.”

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