Feeds

UK examines civilian use of UAVs

Skies filled with drones by 2016?

The Power of One Infographic

BAE Systems' Herti. Photo: BAE SystemsThe UK is examing the possible deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) within 10 years across Britain's airspace for a range of civilian tasks including traffic control and environmental monitoring, The Guardian reports.

UAVs cannot currently operate in UK skies, except in "restricted conditions". Accordingly, the government has pumped £32m into Astraea - "a national programme that focuses on the technologies, systems, facilities and procedures that will allow UAVs to operate safely and routinely in the UK".

The potential operation of UAVs is "fraught with difficulties such as avoiding other aircraft and communicating with air traffic control systems", The Guardian notes.

Astraea chief exec Simon Jewell said: "Every regulation for flight has been written on the assumption that a man would be in the cockpit. You have to go back to first principles to explore every aspect of controlled flight and then what is needed to be different to make it safe for unmanned flight."

Once Astraea has tackled the thorny problems of making UAV operation safe and reliable, the technology can then be released into the wild.

Jewell said: "UAVs are low-cost vehicles which then allow you to put on to them an array of different facilities. The commercial market will determine what those facilities are. This will grow over the years as confidence in them grows."

Suggested uses for UAVs include crowd and traffic monitoring, allowing firefighters to "spot blazes in remote locations" or they might even guide trawlers to shoals of fish off the UK's coast*.

Jewell also offered: "You could look at issues of environmental risk and damage. If there's an oil pipeline that has fractured in a remote area and it's spewing out oil, then you could have a UAV at high altitude very effectively looking for it, whether it's oil or gas or a chemical pollutant going into a river."

BAE Systems last year carried out the UK's first civilian UAV flight over Scotland, using its Herti (see pic above). The company is one of the partners in Astrea, which also include QinetiQ, Rolls Royce, the MoD, and several universities.

Astraea kicked off in earnest on 17 July with the signing of the contracts marking the "formal start of the Astraea programme's 16 work projects", which include "key technologies such as collision avoidance systems, communications, flight control, propulsion, autonomous decision making, health monitoring and affordability". ®

Bootnote

*Yes, we asked ourselves the same question: just how many fish will there be off Britain's coast by 2016?

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.