Two UK airports announced earlier this year the creation of a National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) for the testing of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the first such nongovernment venture in Europe. West Wales Airport at Aberporth and Newquay Airport in Cornwall, southwest England, have linked up to jointly offer to UAS developers (Unmanned Vehicles area, Stand 645) their facilities and runways, along with access to large offshore testing areas.
The FAA last week released its roadmap outlining current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as demand increases to safely integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into civil airspace. The roadmap details items such as new or revised regulations, policies, procedures, guidance material, training and understanding of systems and operations to support routine unmanned aircraft operations.
AeroVironment and Eurocopter are exploring opportunities for cooperation. The potential transatlantic team would combine AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft technology and systems integration skills and knowledge with Eurocopter’s helicopter technology expertise, a Eurocopter spokesman told AIN.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) said that an improved version of the Gray Eagle UAV flew for 45.3 hours on a demonstration flight earlier this month. The Gray Eagle was developed for the U.S. Army from the Predator UAS. The Improved Gray Eagle is a higher-power, higher-mtow version that GA-ASI developed using company funds, although the U.S. Army paid for the demo flight, the first of two planned by the end of the year.
Slowly but surely, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are entering the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) despite a regulatory regime that was previously considered prohibitive to all but government agencies and research institutions. Unmanned aircraft have flown for the first time commercially in remote Arctic airspace, and companies are considering or have already begun the process of obtaining FAA airworthiness certification of their UAS designs.
Even as French aircrews began training in the U.S. on the Reaper UAS, EADS Cassidian announced that it had received a one-year extension to its support contract for the Harfang UAS that the French air force intends to replace with the American drone. Cassidian also noted that the similar Heron UAS operated by the German air force and supported by the company has logged 15,000 hours over Afghanistan. The Germans are also considering a Reaper buy as a replacement for the Israeli-origin UAVs.
India’s own medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS has experienced another delay, with first flight now expected toward the end of next year. A senior official from the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) told AIN that the Rustom-2 project has suffered from lack of access to technology for sensors and engines. “Requirements for ISR are huge in India, given threats from the border. However, Hale, micro and nano UAVs require powerful algorithms. That is where we require help,” added V.S.
The first autonomous takeoff and landing of the Sikorsky Autonomous Research Aircraft (Sara)–an S-76 fitted with fly-by-wire controls, sensors and software for unmanned operations–is expected to take place within days, according to program manager Igor Cherepinsky. So far, he told AIN, Sara’s autonomous flights were following a trajectory to and from a hover.
With the first commercial flight of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) now accomplished, at least two other potential certification efforts are under way for unmanned aircraft that would fly at opposite extremes of the airspace if the Federal Aviation Administration approves them.