Self-funded Series of 17 Evaluation Flights
BAE Systems has begun a series of unmanned technology trials using a JETSTREAM 31 aircraft as a flying testbed from its Warton facilities in the UK. The aircraft will fly autonomously, though it will have pilots on-board for any emergency action required.
The series of 17 flights will aim to prove the capability, maturity and safe operation of autonomous airborne technologies controlled by a satellite-based communications link. Self-funded by the company to the tune of £400,000, the trials will build on the findings of the Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (ASTREA) programme, which ran 2008-2013.
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.
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 £1.5 billion 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 one of the UK’s most technologically advanced aircraft.