ASTRAEA drives forward on next steps to open airspace to Unmanned Aircraft Systems
A unique partnership of industry, public sector, regulatory and academic bodies has reconvened a programme to research, develop and validate the necessary technologies, systems, facilities and procedures to enable the safe, routine and unrestricted use of unmanned air systems (UAS) in the UK.
Phase 2 of a series of research projects to support the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) programme has been launched with funding totalling £30m from a number of public bodies and defence and aerospace organisations. It is part of a six-year programme that seeks to introduce unmanned air systems into civil operations.
Simon Jewell, ASTRAEA Chairman, says: “There is considerable potential for civilian unmanned systems to offer low cost services that include incident monitoring and reporting, coastline environmental patrols and supporting police operations. However, we recognise that significant development is required before unmanned systems can be used alongside manned aircraft, and that current regulations will need to be redefined. Following a very successful first three years the team are looking forward to working with the Civil Aviation Authority on the next phase of the programme.”
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, says: “We are supportive of ASTRAEA which will seek to further develop the outputs of the first three years. As a programme embedded in the National Aerospace Technology Strategy, ASTRAEA will continue to develop UK capabilities to further enable the markets of autonomous systems, an area that we are supporting elsewhere through our Innovation Platforms and Knowledge Transfer networks.”
ASTRAEA is working with the CAA regulator, partner companies and academic institutions to ensure that the regulatory framework is in place to gain access to the best technology and skills. ASTRAEA will thoroughly test and validate options with the aim to enable the presence of unmanned aircraft in UK air space.
The technology is being developed under two research projects: ‘separation assurance & control’; and ‘autonomy & decision making’. These will address issues such as ground operations and human interaction; communications & air traffic control; UAS handling; routing; collision avoidance; multiple air vehicle integration; prognostics & health management; and decision modelling. The programme will include verification and demonstration of the technologies, either singly or as integrated systems.
Funding for ASTRAEA is being provided by public sector organisations – the Technology Strategy Board, the Welsh Assembly Government, Scottish Enterprise, NWDA, SWRDA and SEEDA - and from UK companies: BAE Systems, Thales UK, Rolls-Royce, EADS, QinetiQ, Cobham and AOS, plus a number of universities and SMEs.
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