A Jetstream aircraft known as ‘The Flying Test Bed’, which can fly as if it were a UAV (uninhabited air vehicle), is undergoing a series of flight trials in preparation for the first maiden flight of a surrogate UAV in UK shared airspace later this year.
The aircraft will fly using instrument flight rules under air traffic control. In preparation, trials taking place this month include the world’s first use of autonomous, visionbased weather-avoidance routing and the first UK surrogate flight of a fully functional visual sense-and-avoid system which includes collision avoidance tests using a second aircraft. This trial will begin to demonstrate to regulators such as the Civil Air Authority and air traffic control service providers, the progress made towards achieving the safe use of UAVs in UK airspace.
The new technology is part of a suite of innovations being brought together for the first time as a UK industry-led programme known as ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment); a UK industry-led consortium focusing on the technologies, systems, facilities, procedures and regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles to operate safely and routinely in civil airspace over the United Kingdom.