Maintaining separation in the unmanned era

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The S-100 during a test flight last year. Image: Schiebel

An Austrian company has joined forces with the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) to test a new system designed for maintaining separation between manned and unmanned aircraft.

A Schiebel Camcopter S-100 was fitted with the NLRs AirScout detect and avoid system, which the Dutch Coastguard and Air Force tested by introducing manned aircraft into its operating area.

These ‘intruder’ aircraft, a Dornier Do-228 and an Alouette helicopter, forced the S-100 to determine the corrective action required to maintain separation between it and the manned aircraft.

The successful test flights mark the early stages of a wider effort to safely integrate new unmanned technologies into manned airspace.

‘It’s future-proofing the system’, says Chris Day, head of capability engineering at Schiebel. ‘It’s making certain that as new and evolving markets appear, we are in a position with the right technology at the right place to satisfying them.’

‘Key amongst that in order to enlarge our possible opportunities is the ability to do detect and avoid, and hence, migrate from restricted airspace into the far greater airspace that will become available.’

‘This work has been absolutely fundamental in us achieving those first tentative but very positive footsteps along that journey.’

With a maximum take-off weight of 200 kg, a flight time of over six hours, an operational ceiling of 18,000 ft and capable of autonomous flight, the S-100 poses a considerable risk to a mid-air collision with manned aircraft.

The test flights were conducted as part of the AIRICA project, an initiative aimed at integrating RPAS into coastguard applications.

On it’s website, AIRICA envisages RPAS pivotal in closing current operational gaps with manned aircraft.

‘By performing coastguard operations previously executed by manned aircraft in the North Sea area in real time, AIRICA aims to address remaining operational and technical gaps regarding the integration of complex RPAS operations into non-segregated airspace.

‘The envisaged coastguard operations will take place beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and will involve (low-level) flights in different airspace environments. Following take-off from an airport, the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) will fly towards the targeted area over the North Sea, perform its mission, and fly back to the same airport.’

AIRICA is funded by the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) programme, aimed at giving Europe a high performing air traffic management infrastructure enabling safe and environmentally friendly development of air transport.

More information on the AIRICA project is available via their website.

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