U.K., U.S. partner discuss unmanned civilian flights
Nov. 26, 2012, Wales, U.K. - The National Aeronautical Centre (NAC), located at West Wales Airport in the U.K., is collaborating with the Oklahoma State University's Multispectral Laboratory (UML) to boost the operation and regulatory development of civilian Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
The partners will exchange development and operational experiences, and information in order to frame national safety standards for the construction, testing and control of civilian unmanned aerial system so that it can be operated under regulated conditions.
In addition, NAC and UML will exchange information with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency to set up a framework for internationally-accepted regulation.
Success in this collaboration will allow UAS operating firms both in US and Europe to tap a market that is estimated to touch $51 billion a year by 2020.
West Wales Airport managing director Ray Mann said there were many UAS companies from around the world knowing the material and financial benefits that will arise once it becomes possible to operate unmanned systems in civilian airspace.
"The opportunity that has now arisen for us to work with Oklahoma's UML will be a significant step towards establishing the long awaited criteria for that to happen," Mann added.
Oklahoma Science and Technology secretary Dr Stephen McKeever said that along with other partners, the knowledge and experience that West Wales Airport brings will add significantly to the already high level of capability at the UML.
Operating airfield facilities near Fort Sill, UML offers R&D, test and evaluation services for UAS at federal, state and commercial levels.
In the last eight years, West Wales Airport has been extending its capabilities of operating large unmanned air vehicles and this year, it unveiled NAC at the U.K.'s Farnborough International Airshow.
NAC's facilities are used by some of the key players from the UAS industry, such as Thales U.K. and Selex Galileo.
Besides being the only privately-owned airport in the U.K. where unmanned aerial vehicles can operate in segregated airspace, West Wales Airport is also the hub of the U.K. Ministry of Defence's sophisticated unmanned system Watchkeeper UAS.
Weighing 500kg, Watchkeeper is currently undergoing test and evaluation before deploying it into service with the British Army.