Passenger UAVs may be the future, predicts unmanned systems technology company Athena

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By Mike McGrath in Farnborough

Unmanned aircraft may be flying passengers within the next 10-20 years, says the head of UAV technology provider Athena Technologies.

Dr David Vos made the prediction while introducing the company’s two new superlight navigation and sensor systems at the show. The Micro INS and the Micro GuideStar include GPS Inertial Navigational Systems (INS),and air data sensor system (ADAHRS). The Micro GuideStar also includes full flight control capability.

He said that technology similar to that provided in the cell phone-sized guidance systems, which weigh only 110g (4oz), will mean that in 10 years' time, UAVs will be common in commercial airspace.

The affordability and compact weight of the systems enables UAV manufacturers to use multiple identical systems in each UAV, so that in the event of damage or malfunction to one part of the system, identical auxiliary cells can take over to maintain the same functionality.

Micro systems already offer reliability at the level of triple and quadruple redundancy protection. “Distributed high levels of extra redundancy on aircraft enable it to maintain functionality if damaged, adding dramatically to safety,” Vos says.
The Micros are able to navigate and autonomously control drones, missiles and general aviation aircraft, but it is in the UAV field that they will offer the biggest developments, Vos says.

“Anything you can think of that a manned aircraft will do today; UAVs will do in the future. In years to come, unmanned passenger aircraft may be viewed in a similar way to that which unmanned airport shuttle trains are viewed today,” he says.
“The rate at which culture adopts new technology today is faster than ever. The young generation today are willing to adopt new developments at an incredibly fast rate, and this will speed up the rate at which this technology develops.”