UAV demonstration

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The £32m ASTRANEA aerospace programme has completed a major demonstration of autonomous aircraft technology at ParcAberporth in west Wales.

ASTRAEA is a consortium of major aerospace companies, including BAE Systems, EADS, Cobham, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, and Thales. The companies are working with autonomous systems specialist, Agent Oriented Software, to launch an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into non-segregated airspace by 2012.

The ParcAberporth demonstration involved two simulator missions that were supervised by a human mission commander and UAV pilot who controlled the level of autonomy given to the aircraft. The first mission simulated a UAV search and rescue flight from ParcAberporth to Anglesey while the second demonstrated UAV’s avoidance of other aircraft by simulating a flight through existing airways.

The team focused on the technological aspects of ground planning, autonomy, capability and communications. They also used the simulator to assess the technologies response to challenging scenarios such as bird strikes or running short of fuel.

Nick Miller, vice chairman of ASTRAEA, said: ‘This is indeed a significant event in the development of civil UAV use.

‘Although UAVs can operate in tightly restricted airspace already, this demonstration showed how they can be integrated into wider airspace and helped a range of stakeholders understand the steps we need to take to make the widespread civil use of UAVs a reality.’

The consortium, whose supporters include the department of Business,


and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Technology Strategy Board, South West RDA, and the Welsh Assembly government, hopes to begin a second phase to the project next year.