Blue Bear tests ADS-B-equipped drones in the UK

Blue Bear’s Blackstart drone conducted the first Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) equipped flights in the National BVLOS Experimental Corridor (NBEC) in Bedfordshire, UK. The Blackstart drone took off from Blue Bear’s flight test facility and successfully covered a 6 km (EVLOS) round trip flight along the NBEC whilst broadcasting its position over ADS-B.

The signal from the small, lightweight ADS-B transponder was picked up by a number of third party ADS-B receivers as part of the test metrics, ensuring that the technology was working efficiently and that conspicuity could be maintained at the low operating altitude.

Drones will need to be appropriately conspicuous in order to operate in future BVLOS environments and adding an ADS-B transponder is one method of achieving this electronically whilst employing a recognised worldwide standard. It is envisioned that all drones that fly within the NBEC corridor will be equipped with ADS-B devices, as part of the multi-layered technology approach employed to ensure safe separation between both cooperative and non-cooperative traffic.

The goal of the NBEC is to provide a safe, managed environment for drone/unmanned aircraft experimentation which will work towards their integration into controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

The partners (Blue Bear, Cranfield University, Thales and Vodafone) believe the key to future drone operations is not segregation, but unification ensuring fair and equitable use of airspace for all. The creation of NBEC allows new technologies to be integrated and tested together with the involvement of industry and regulatory stakeholders to provide a national capability that accelerates leading-edge research.

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