Partnership ‘to establish safety standards for civilian UAS’

The National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) based at West Wales Airport has announced a partnership with Oklahoma State University’s Multispectral Laboratory (UML) to advance the operation and regulatory development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

According to a statement, the partnership is expected to provide data and experience necessary to establish national safety standards for the construction, testing and control of civilian UAS that will enable them to operate in civilian airspace under regulated conditions.

Both parties will exchange their development and operational experiences with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The aim is to quickly establish a framework for internationally accepted regulation.

Success in this venture is expected to provide a significant step in enabling UAS operating companies on both continents to gain clearances needed to access a market forecast in a report from WinterGreen Research to be worth $51bn (£31.8bn) a year by 2020.

For the past eight years, West Wales Airport has been extending its capability of operating large UAS beyond visual line of sight. Oklahoma’s UML supplies research and development, as well as test and evaluation services in support of UAS at federal, state and commercial levels.

Ray Mann, managing director of West Wales Airport, said: ‘This is an extremely important development that will deliver many benefits, as well as maintaining both our facilities at the leading edge of this burgeoning sector of aerospace.

‘There are many very capable UAS companies from around the world who know the material and financial benefits that will arise once it becomes possible to operate unmanned systems in civilian airspace. The opportunity that has now arisen for us to work with Oklahoma’s UML will be a significant step towards establishing the long-awaited criteria for that to happen.’