Where’s the Pilot Gone? Unmanned Flights Tested in the UK

Posted on May 21 2013 - 10:51am by Paul

If you are the type of air passenger who looks nervously out of the window to see that the pilot is a trustworthy, sober type then you might be able to sit back and forget about it before too very long.
This is because tests have been carried out on unmanned flights in UK airspace in the last month. That’s right; a plan with no pilot at all.

Actually, a pilot who was on board the Jetstream craft took off near Preston and landed in Inverness but for the 500 miles in between a pilot on the ground had control of the plane, taking instructions from the National Air Traffic Services.

There were no passengers flying in the 16 seat vessel but it travelled in airspace which was shared with other craft which did have passengers on board.

The aircraft is known as the Flying Testbed and is filled with on board equipment such as sensors and robotics to make sure that it identifies and then avoids hazards in the air.

A Huge Funding Investment

flightThis isn’t the first test flight of the sort and the work is being done by Astraea, which stands for Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment. They have been given over £60 in funding grants from both the UK government and commercial airlines to find out how unmanned commercial aircrafts could be used.
One of the firms investing in Astraea is BAE Systems, and one of their spokespeople said that the test flights are needed to, among other things, “put a regulatory framework in place” concerning pilot-less flights in airspace which contains manned flights as well.

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