Virtual UK UAV airspace integration testing success

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A three-day virtual unmanned air vehicle exercise that saw aircraft successfully avoided in the synthetic airspace environment has been completed for the UK Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (ASTRAEA) programme's £32 million ($50.6 million) first phase.

Taking place in late October at ParcAberporth in west Wales, the ASTRAEA industry participants - Cobham, BAE Systems, AOS, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Thales and EADS - brought together various strands of related technology they had each developed for the first phase and its virtual exercise.

The exercise involved two virtual flights, the first of which simulated a UAV flying from ParcAberporth on a search and rescue mission and landing on the Isle of Anglesey in north Wales.

The second had the virtual UAV fly from ParcAberporth to Sumburgh in Scotland's Shetland islands, avoiding aircraft en route. After the two flights ASTRAEA's autonomous technologies ability to cope with bird strikes and fuel starvation was also tested.

"UAV flight in non-segregated airspace by 2012 is feasible," says the programme. As well as technology development ASTRAEA's partners have been discussing applicable regulations with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The exercise also included non-technical issues and examined emergency planning. A £40 million ASTRAEA second phase is being planned to start next year that might see a UAV fly in non-segregated airspace in 2012.