BAE Systems has successfully completed a 500-mile flight with a completely unmanned aircraft in UK airspace, the first of its kind. Controlled remotely from the ground, the Jetstream research aircraft was flown as part of the £62 million industry-led ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) programme.
It took off from Warton in Lancashire and flew to Inverness in Scotland with no issues. The flight was an important step towards a future when autonomous vehicles can be used with safety in UK airspace. "The work being done here today and hopefully continued into the next phase of the ASTRAEA programme, will likely impact all of us in the next five, ten, 20 years as unmanned aircraft and associated technology develop and become a part of everyday life," said Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal from BAE Systems, who is also programme director for ASTRAEA.
"These latest trials help prove the technology we need to routinely operate unmanned aircraft in our airspace and also help the regulators develop the framework in which the aircraft can operate in.
"Simply put, I believe we are writing a new chapter in aviation history."
Andrew Chapman, the expert on unmanned air vehicles, hailed the journey too. "Although there is still work to be done it would seem that, on the basis of the success of this flight, a UAV could operate in different classes of airspace," he said.