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

The humble Jetstream, dubbed the ‘Flying Test Bed’, has changed its navy blue and red livery for a high-gloss black as it prepares for its latest round of flights before the end of the year.

It is expected to undertake up to 10 flights before the end of the year as part of work we are undertaking.

No hands

The Jetstream, which was built in 1982, is an aerial laboratory that is kitted out with equipment to allow it to fly as if it were an unmanned air vehicle (UAV), piloted from the ground.

The journey of the makeover

Jason Lydon, the Aircraft and Flight Trials Manager, said: “It is 11 years since it was last painted, so it needed a lick of paint and it is looking good for it.

“It underwent a mandatory five-week maintenance activity with Cranfield Aerospace where emergent defects were rectified and to have a new storage cabinet installed inside.

“Then it went to Hamilton Aircraft based in Edinburgh for the repaint; it got rubbed down, primed and repainted with new lettering put down the side.”

Why the choice of colour?

He explained the new look has nothing to do with making the Jetstream stealthier.

Jason 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.”

Next steps

Between now and Christmas, the Jetstream will undertake flight trials looking into the development of weather hazard avoidance, navigation and gathering data on emergency landing, for Unmanned Air Systems.

This will all feed into an ongoing programme being spearheaded by our own Research and Technology arm.

As with all flights by the Jetstream, there will be two pilots in the cockpit who will be able to take command of the aircraft at any point, if required.

Working together

Since 2006, the Jetstream has led flight trials for the £62m ASTRAEA programme, led by a consortium of seven companies including ourselves,  which aims to enable the routine use of unmanned aircraft in airspace without the need for special conditions.

It has seen the consortium working alongside the regulator, as well as service providers such as the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), to try and secure flights for unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace alongside other users.

In April 2013, it saw the aircraft complete a 500-mile flight from our Warton site, Lancashire to Inverness, Scotland, under the command of a ground-based pilot and the control of air traffic controllers from NATS.

Check out our innovation feature for more information on the Flying Test Bed.