Autonomous aircraft tests begin at Warton

By Lancashire Business View

06 Dec 2016

BAE Systems has begun another tranche of ground-breaking autonomous aircraft technology trials from one of its Lancashire facilities.

As part of collaborative efforts across the UK to assess how autonomous air vehicles could be integrated in UK airspace, scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have commenced testing, using a Jetstream 31 as a ‘flying testbed’ which flies itself whilst having pilots on board who could take control at any time.

The trials are being conducted from the company’s military aircraft engineering and manufacturing facility in Warton.

The latest trials are self-funded by BAE Systems at a cost of around £400,000 and build on the findings of the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) Research and Development programme which ran from 2008-2013.

In a series of 17 flights, BAE Systems’ engineers aim to prove the capability, maturity and safe operation of autonomous air technologies controlled by a satellite-communications based link. This has the advantage of being globally available already and therefore enabling operations without the need for new infrastructure.

Also being tested are further developments of sensing technologies including aircraft and cloud avoidance using only camera input rather than radar. The results of the trials will inform the direction of the company’s future unmanned aircraft programme and the suitability of testing unmanned aircraft in the UK. In the near future these unmanned aircraft technologies may also be brought to market for use in commercial and military aircraft as aids to the existing crew

The series of test flights involve a team of two engineers on-board whom together with air traffic control experts at NATS, continually assess the performance of the systems on the testbed. Flights last 1.5 hours and are flying through non-congested airspace on a route from Warton to Inverness, Scotland covering around 300 miles and normally flying at 15000 feet. A pilot and co-pilot are in control for take-off and landing – but once airborne and in controlled airspace the Jetstream flies itself. On the ground a flight test observer and a unmanned air vehicle commander - who is a fully licensed pilot for these trials – are monitoring the flights via satellite communications.

The testbed contains an aircraft identification antennae which detects other aircraft’s transponder signals as well as a cockpit mounted camera acting as an ‘electronic eye’. This links to the aircraft’s computer systems and enables the Jetstream to ‘see’ potential hazards even if no signals are being emitted. The “electronic eye” of the Jetstream can also recognize different cloud types and, if needed, plot a course that allows evasive action from challenging weather conditions.

Maureen Mccue, BAE Systems’ head of research and technology for the military aircraft and information business said: “Our priority as always is to demonstrate the safe and effective operation of autonomous systems and together with NATS we are working towards the possibility of flying our own unmanned systems in a highly controlled environment in the UK. The trials are an exciting time and will give us technology options that could be applied to our own manned and unmanned aircraft as well potentially enabling us to take some new unmanned aircraft technologies to market.”

BAE Systems has developed an extensive portfolio of unmanned air capabilities over the past two decades. The company is currently working on a joint Future Combat Air System programme with Dassault of France in as part of an anticipated £1.5bn programme that is expected to lead to the production of operational demonstrators. With the UK’s Ministry of Defence, and other engineering organisations, BAE Systems has also designed and manufactured Taranis - an unmanned combat aircraft demonstrator – currently the UK’s most technologically advanced aircraft.

Latest news

1

Breck to deliver £150m of affordable homes over four years Breck Development In Progress

Breck to deliver £150m of affordable homes over four years

18 Jul 2024

2

Business board launches to support county's economic growth Lancashire Business Board

Business board launches to support county's economic growth

18 Jul 2024

3

Preston College launches new VR-led mental health course Preston College Mental Health Vr

Preston College launches new VR-led mental health course

18 Jul 2024

4

Kingsley Asset Finance hires new senior underwriter IMG-20230616-WA0004.jpg.jpg

Kingsley Asset Finance hires new senior underwriter

18 Jul 2024

5

Thompsons Contracts sponsors Elmer's Big Parade in Blackpool thompsons-csr.jpg.jpg

Thompsons Contracts sponsors Elmer's Big Parade in Blackpool

18 Jul 2024

Bec Web Strip 980x120
Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Leverage Lancashire Business View platforms

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Build your network
Improve your SEO
Gain coverage in the magazine
Sign-up
Events
Lancashire Built Environment Conference
BEC 315 X 315 Px
Networking
25 Sep 2024

Lancashire Built Environment Conference

Conference and Exhibition Centre, Winter Gardens Blackpool, FY1 1HL

08:30 - 13:00

RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers
WENDY BOWERS RISE Illustrstion copy.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Seminars
11 Jun 2024 - 04 Dec 2024

RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Clayton le Moors, BB5 5JR

09:00 - 16:30

The Business Network Central & East Lancashire
LBV Header (10).png.png
LBV Hub Networking
18 Jul 2024 - 18 Jul 2024

The Business Network Central & East Lancashire

Mytton Fold, Langho, BB6 8AB

11:30 - 14:15

Conversations in Creativity - Creative Networking Event
Untitled design-4.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
18 Jul 2024

Conversations in Creativity - Creative Networking Event

Society1 Coworking Space, Preston, PR1 3LT

17:30 - 19:30

Lancashire Economic Breakfast
LBV Hub Seminars
18 Jul 2024

Lancashire Economic Breakfast

The Mill, St Catherine's Park, Preston, Lancashire

07:15 - 09:00

What are Menopause Action Plans & How to Write One
Menopause Action Plan 2024.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
19 Jul 2024

What are Menopause Action Plans & How to Write One

~ Online ~, ~ Online ~, ~ Online ~

12:30 - 13:00

Business Networking in Fylde, Blackpool
Blackpool Fylde Image.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Networking
19 Jul 2024

Business Networking in Fylde, Blackpool

Village Hotel Blackpool, Blackpool, FY3 8LL

07:30 - 09:30

Preston Freelancer MeetUp and Coworking Day
Screenshot 2024-06-13 at 13.55.10.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
30 Jul 2024

Preston Freelancer MeetUp and Coworking Day

Society1 Coworking Space, Preston, PR1 3LT

10:00 - 12:00

Scaling your revenue: From zero to £1m in 60 months
CBP-logo LBV.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
31 Jul 2024

Scaling your revenue: From zero to £1m in 60 months

Online, Online, Online

08:00 - 09:30

Chamber Breakfast Networking
Chamber Logo1.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
31 Jul 2024

Chamber Breakfast Networking

Pye Motors, Morecambe, LA3 3PF

08:00 - 10:00

Online Women's Health Clinic
clinic.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
06 Aug 2024

Online Women's Health Clinic

x, Online, x

12:00 - 12:00

International Coworking Day Open Day
1.png.png
LBV Hub Social
09 Aug 2024 - 09 Aug 2024

International Coworking Day Open Day

Society1 Coworking Space, Prestin, PR1 3 LT

10:00 - 13:00

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more LBV116 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin