The project is part of BAE Systems’ ongoing technology partnership with UK Sport and will support the teams transporting horses to major competitive events throughout the season.
As with athletes, the performance of horses flying to international competition can be adversely affected by the symptoms of long haul air travel. Engineers at BAE Systems were asked to provide a technical solution to overcome the impact of long haul travel to ensure the animals arrive in a peak state of health and fitness; ready for competition.
The specialist team at BAE Systems produced a unique and bespoke environmental monitoring unit developed, called Equus-Sense, for the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). The technology builds upon advanced sensor systems such as those that monitor cockpit conditions and air quality found in Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft for the fighter pilots. Novel integration techniques and additional sensors appropriate to equestrian transport were introduced to provide a complete monitoring unit for the horses. The system covers elements including sound, temperature, vibration, humidity, dust levels and oxygen, allowing trainers and athletes to monitor the environmental conditions for horses travelling to international events.
Equus-Sense can be housed in any travelling environment for horses, and will sense and log environmental conditions during transit. It allows trainers to evaluate the individual conditions of horses upon arrival at competitions to make informed decisions on their readiness to compete.
In time the technology could be applied to other sporting organisations outside the BEF to monitor transportation and welfare of other horses travelling to competitions worldwide.
“When it comes to elite sport, marginal gains can help leverage a real competitive advantage – and that preparation begins before competitors reach their competition,” said Henry White, UK Sport Partnership Lead at BAE Systems. “We develop aircraft and equipment monitoring technology which helps ensure our fighter pilots are as comfortable as possible to enable them to realise their incredible skills and there is no reason why horses cannot benefit from this. Applying such technology to horse transportation had its challenges but our expert engineers have developed such a system allowing the equestrian competitors to benefit and help gain an advantage.”
Director of Equine Sports Science and Medicine for the BEF’s World Class Programme, John McEwen adds; “This has been a valuable project that has improved elite horse transport. This is an area that can have a major performance effect and we are grateful to BAE Systems for their scientific support.
“Small marginal gains are very important to us, to provide maximal performance, and the travel environment is critical to this. The improvements made will ensure the highest level of welfare for our elite horses and ensure that they travel first class.”
The development of the environmental monitoring unit was co-ordinated by the Performance Innovation team from the English Institute of Sport (EIS), which is the science, medicine and technology arm of UK Sport.
Naomi Stenhouse, Head of Performance Innovation at the EIS explained: “We were approached by the BEF, which was keen to optimise the travel environment for its horses, and through our longstanding partnership with BAE Systems have been able to broker a relationship which deploys technology developed by the company to address a wide range of issues and help ensure the horses arrive at competitions in a peak state of health and fitness. The project is a great example of how our partnership with BAE Systems provides added value by enabling sports and national governing bodies to access third party technology and engineering expertise that can help to deliver performance benefits.”
In 2017, BAE Systems and UK Sport announced a four-year extension to the unique and highly-successful long-term engineering partnership. BAE Systems is UK Sport’s Official Engineering Partner providing engineering expertise, time and materials worth £600,000.
Engineers and sports scientists at the two organisations, and at the English Institute of Sport, have worked together since 2009. In that time, 250 athletes from 30 different Olympic and Paralympic sporting discipline have benefitted from some of the UK’s most advanced technologies.
Through the partnership, both organisations are able to harness the ‘best of British’ in attracting and developing sports and engineering talent, supporting British athletes as they prepare for national and international competitions.