‘Detect and avoid’ focus for latest UK government funded drone BVLOS research

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is part-funding a new Pathfinder project to develop safe ‘detect and avoid’ procedures. The Airspace Integration of Drones in support of COVID response Pathfinder project aims to deliver an operating environment where all airspace users are detected, and their locations presented back to other drone operators.

The project will be delivered by Trax International in partnership with UAvionix, ANRA Technologies UK and Plane Finder. Initial trials will take place at The Aviation Innovation Centre, Goodwood and will also include Skyports and Auriga Aerospace.

Working under the Civil Aviation Authority’s regulatory requirements, the consortium aims to demonstrate safe Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flight alongside conventional air traffic in non-segregated airspace.

This will be achieved by developing a comprehensive electronic surveillance picture based on Mode-S and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transmissions using existing internationally recognised systems, procedures and rules, and integrating it into an unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform. This information will be re-broadcast via Traffic Information Service – Broadcast (TIS-B) to enhance the situational awareness of all airspace users.

The project is expected to be completed by November 2021.

UK Transport Minister Rachael Maclean said: “The UK is already a world-leader when it comes to innovation in aviation and this exciting project will take us one step further to being able to safely use drones alongside other air traffic in UK airspace. This trial is supported by our Drones Pathfinder Programme which we are pleased to be funding into 2021/22.”

The UK Government Drones Pathfinder programme is sponsored by the Department for Transport (DfT) and aims to rapidly drive progress in unmanned aviation technology and regulation, enabling industry and the public sector to fully exploit the market in different industry sectors.

Pathfinder projects take a phased approach to achieve routine use of drones within the UK and focus on identifying and overcoming the technical, operational, and commercial challenges for bringing a new BVLOS drone-based service to market in the UK.

The Drones Pathfinder Programme is managed by Connected Places Catapult, under the governance of the Department for Transport, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Civil Aviation Authority.

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