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UAV programme triumphs at Technology and Innovation Awards 2008

20th November 2008 - 05:33 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Engineering industry experts from across the UK witnessed Lancaster University, Cranfield University and BAE Systems win two awards at the Technology and Innovation Awards 2008. The awards recognised their collaboration on pioneering Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) programme, ASTRAEA.

Hosted by The Engineer magazine at the Royal Society in London, the team won the Special Award for Outstanding Achievement and also triumphed in the Aerospace and Defence Award category for their work in developing a sense and avoid capability for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) designed for civilian use.

The ASTRAEA programme, through which the technologies were developed, is a £32m collaboration which aims to open up UK airspace to the unrestricted use of UAVs.

The programme aims to demonstrate that UAVs can operate with equivalent safety and with the same level of transparency as manned aircraft. The programme includes research into ‘sense and avoid' technology designed to autonomously recognise potential airborne collisions and take evasive action.

In manned flight, traffic collision avoidance systems currently rely on a pilot, for example recommending altitude changes in order to avert a potential collision. As well as use on unmanned aircraft therefore, the groundbreaking research undertaken through ASTRAEA may eventually also provide backup to support routine operations in all classes of aircraft.

On this aspect of the ASTRAEA programme, the team used a BAE Systems software development environment to develop, integrate and evaluate their sense and avoid research. The advanced facilities allowed the team to test the UAV capabilities within a synthetic environment that accurately matched the environment of a real aircraft.

Darren Ansell, Mission Systems Research Team Leader at BAE Systems, said: "Using synthetic environments we were able to create the environment of a real UAV in flight, which enabled us to test and subsequently develop effective ‘sense and avoid' system capabilities. We're delighted to have won these awards jointly with Lancaster and Cranfield University as it reiterates how important collaboration in the project is and the vital role that this work plays in contributing to the ASTRAEA programme as a whole."

Dr Plamen Angelov, Principal Investigator on the ASTRAEA project at Lancaster University said: "These awards reinforce the recognition of our team's advanced research into intelligent and autonomous systems and its potential usefulness. We believe the North West is well placed to benefit from the potential growth of the UAV market through Lancaster University and companies like BAE Systems at Warton."

Lancaster University was awarded £225,000 as part of the first three-year phase of the ASTRAEA programme.


ASTRAEA is a pioneering £32 million aerospace programme which is investigating key technological and regulatory issues related to opening up non-segregated airspace to unmanned autonomous aircraft. The programme last three years and represents a cross section of interested parties, involving government, industry, academia and regional bodies.


The Shephard News Team


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