A team of unmanned and maritime experts from Inzpire has recently been involved in a two-week trial to demonstrate the advantages of using long-range unmanned capabilities in civilian airspace in support of the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the National Police Air Service (NPAS).
However, our involvement in this project started long before the trial itself commenced, with our team completing months of critical planning to ensure that all of the desired outcomes of the trial were captured and delivered as announced in February 2020.
Inzpire’s expertise meant that our team understood how crucially important the location was to the success of the demonstration and so our first task was finding the most suitable airfield from which to conduct the trials. Our team assessed a number of potential UK sites, then created a shortlist and assessed each one against a list of requirements to assess their suitability. Following the results of this survey, West Wales Airport (WWA) emerged as the best location to conduct the demonstration. Key factors in the selection of WWA were the location’s current experience in UAS operations, their accessibility to established segregated airspace and their close proximity to the sea with busy shipping routes. These factors would ensure the demonstration would be as realistic as possible with plenty of surface contacts to investigate and confuse the picture while maintaining the primary focus of the demonstration which was, at all times, safety.
Inzpire designed multiple mission scenarios to demonstrate how an Unmanned Air System (UAS) could be used by the MCA and the NPAS to conduct a range of their current tasks.
The scenarios were designed by the Inzpire team specifically to increase in complexity with the final aim of operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in unsegregated and uncontrolled airspace. These scenarios aimed to prove that UAS could operate safely and effectively at long range (250+ miles) while sharing the airspace with other aircraft, essential in being able to support search and rescue efforts.
To support the various different mission scenarios and to provide the evidence required for the regulators, various types of airspace were prearranged before the trial. The Inzpire team played an integral role in facilitating the permissions and engaging with stakeholders to allow use of the airspace for the purpose of the demonstration.
The Inzpire team played a vital role in identifying and booking airspace before the trial commenced
A significant element of the demonstration was to conduct an Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) trial involving both manned (fixed wing and helicopters) and unmanned aircraft. Inzpire designed the scenarios that demonstrated how ADS-B could safely de-conflict UAS and manned aircraft sharing the same airspace.
Before the demonstration got underway, Inzpire generated a detailed flying programme, coordinating the multiple agencies and multiple participating units to allow the UAS to operate safely in UK airspace whilst providing a realistic representation of how a UAS could conduct tasks alongside existing agency capabilities. A detailed trial plan was then produced by Inzpire to support, coordinate and underpin all the events during the demonstration.
To support the MCA in their understanding of how to task and integrate Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS, Inzpire’s experienced maritime and unmanned operators generated the concepts of operation and standard operating procedures that could provide the foundation of any framework for any MALE UAS procured in the future and to provide a better understanding as to how they might complement existing platforms/sensors.
During the flying demonstration Inzpire monitored and coordinated the trial elements while recording all the available data. After every mission, Inzpire ensured all possible lessons identified (LI’s) were recognised, captured and critically assessed by the flight crew and trial coordinators before the next mission was flown. These LI’s will provide crucial evidence to the MCA and NPAS to back up the findings that will be contained in the post-trial report being written and delivered by the Inzpire team.
To summarise, this potentially ground breaking live flight trial will hopefully provide significant evidence of the use of UAS in this and many other areas of aviation. The ability of large UAS to safely operate in unsegregated airspace, at significant distances is obviously critical in allowing this capability to move forwards. Combining the use of a proven and hugely capable MALE UAS with the vast experience in both unmanned and maritime operations of the Inzpire team will provide the MCA and NPAS with a comprehensive data set for which to base future UK capability requirements.
Technical and Strategic Services OBU
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