QinetiQ2005-03-14 08:59:15

UAVs: technology "not enough" to ensure greater safety in the skies says QinetiQ expert.
- Key to future success of UAVs must be achieved through an "holistic approach to air traffic management"

Concerns about UAVs and manned aircraft safely sharing airspace are still key issues for the growing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) community.

UAVs are still evolving and are not yet fully autonomous aircraft, currently requiring considerable human intervention. While the technology will evolve and improve, the approach to integrating manned and unmanned aircraft needs to be holistic, involving a thorough understanding of the ATM environment, the exact responsibilities of airspace users and Air Traffic Control service providers as well as the technological issues.

This is the view of QinetiQ expert Philip Platt who was speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society's UAV conference, 'UAV Systems - Shaping the 21st Century'.

In recent years, UAV technology has experienced a rapid growth in popularity. With the availability of new, improved computing platforms and sensory devices, UAVs have evolved into highly capable aircraft with a myriad of potential applications, ranging from armed platforms to long-endurance platforms, monitoring the Earth for scientific research purposes.

However, Mr Platt, who works in QinetiQ's Air traffic management department, says the full potential of UAV technology cannot be realised until they are proven to have the ability to operate safely within unrestricted airspace. While areas such as navigation, flight control and even take-off and landing have been mastered by many UAVs, the current inability of UAVs to provide a collision avoidance capability equal to that of a human pilot, remains the biggest hurdle.

"If UAVs are to have any chance of operating freely in unrestricted airspace, they must be able to fulfill the same responsibilities for separation and collision avoidance as their manned counterparts. This will include the requirement for advanced communications technologies and full procedural and system integration with the ATM environment, as well as systems that have come to be known as sense and avoid" says Mr Platt.

QinetiQ has broad expertise in unmanned systems, including design and operation of UAVs, development of airframe and materials, propulsion, leading edge sensors, communications, autonomy, conflict/mission management and system integration. QinetiQ also has extensive expertise in the ATM domain providing technical support to key organisations such as ICAO, EUROCONTROL, UK CAA and the MoD.

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