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BAE Systems
 
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ASTRAEA has a new look - it's been painted black

Look no hands

Our Jetstream aircraft known as ‘The Flying Test Bed’, which can fly as if it were an Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV), has undergone a series of flight trials and completed it's first maiden flight of a surrogate UAV in UK shared airspace.

What is it?

ASTRAEA How it works
ASTRAEA How it works

The BAE Systems’ Jetstream, known as ‘The Flying Testbed’, is an aerial laboratory. It's a unique aircraft which has been developed to be flown by pilots or as an Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV). Racks of computers and control systems in the rear of the aircraft, together with satellite communications, mean it can fly as if it were a UAV without any input from the pilots. This year it will trial a range of new technologies to be developed under the ASTRAEA programme, including what is believed to be the world’s first autonomous weather avoidance system, in addition to ‘sense and avoid’ technologies and an autonomous emergency landing system.

 


Weather avoidance test

ASTRAEA Weather avoidance
ASTRAEA Weather avoidance

Using an ‘electronic eye’ mounted in the cockpit linked to computer systems and the ‘brains’ of the aircraft, the Jetstream will trial what is believed to be the world’s first autonomous weather avoidance system. This means recognising cloud types and plotting a course that allows evasive action.


Sense and avoid test

ASTRAEA Sense and avoid
ASTRAEA Sense and avoid

Avoiding other air traffic means a UAV needs to ‘see’ potential hazards. The BAE Systems’Jetstream will trial ‘sense and avoid’ technology using its Aircraft Identification Antenna to pick up aircraft transponder signals, and will use its ‘electronic eye’ to pick up ‘visual’ contact if no signals are being emitted.


Emergency landing test

ASTRAEA Emergency Landing
ASTRAEA Emergency Landing

If a UAV needs to make an emergency landing, it is essential it can do so without causing danger. The BAE Systems' Jetstream can test the systems which find safe landing areas by detecting and avoiding life on the ground.


Controlled airspace

ASTRAEA Test Flights in controlled airspace
ASTRAEA Test Flights in controlled airspace

The Jetstream is expected to carry out over 20 test flights in 2012. Each flight will last around three hours. The aircraft will cover around 750 miles each time and fly between 5-15,000 feet. The Test Flights will mainly be carried out in Controlled Airspace over the Irish Sea.


World first

Jetstream
Jetstream

The first flight demonstrating how an unmanned aircraft can operate in all UK airspace took place in April 2013.

The Jetstream successfully completed a 500 mile trip from Warton, Lancashire to Inverness, Scotland under the command of a ground based pilot and control of NATS (National Air Traffic Control Services) air traffic controllers.The trial flights incorporated a number of firsts including:

  • believed to be the world’s first use of autonomous, vision-based weather-avoidance routing
  • the first UK Surrogate flight of a fully functional visual sense-and-avoid system
  • the first flight of an aircraft configured as a UAV, flying under Instrument Flight Rules under air traffic control in shared UK airspace.

 

While only one or two of the technologies were world firsts, many were UK firsts – and it was the first time these technologies have been brought together. The flight was part of a series of flight trials designed to prove the technology needed to allow the safe and routine flying of unmanned aircraft in UK airspace.


A makeover

ASTRAEA has a new look - it's been painted black
ASTRAEA has a new look - it's been painted black

The summer of 2013 saw the ‘Flying Test Bed’ get a new look as the Jetstream changed its navy blue and red livery for a high-gloss black. It also received a five-week maintenance overhaul to where emergent defects were rectified and to have a new storage cabinet installed inside, before heading to Hamilton Aircraft in Edinburgh for a repaint.

Jason Lydon, the Aircraft and Flight Trials Manager, explained the new look has nothing to do with making the Jetstream stealthier.

He said: “Quite the opposite in fact, the colour has been chosen to make it easier to see which I believe is why all our Hawk training aircraft are painted black.”


ASTRAEA 3A

ASTRAEA
ASTRAEA

The next phase of work on the UK’s unmanned aircraft research programme ASTRAEA was announced in February 2014. Dubbed ASTRAEA 3A, the 18 month programme was looking at consolidating the regulatory work from the earlier phases and continue work on Virtual Certification with the UK CAA.


More information

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