First test flights for National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor Image: Cranfield University

Test flights will eventually be from Oakley to Cranfield

The successful drone test flights have taken place at Cranfield Airport. The tests were part of a collaboration between Cranfield University and Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd.

The partners believe that the key to future drone operations is not segregation, but unification to ensure fair use of airspace for all.

The tests were to establish the principles for the National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC). This corridor would allow drones and unmanned aircraft to fly in the same airspace as manned aircraft.

Ian Williams-Wynn, Managing Director of Blue Bear, said:

“These initial flights, enabled us to provide Cranfield Airport with reassurance from an operational safety perspective that the systems Blue Bear had developed and put in place are appropriate and compatible with Cranfield Airport operations.”

Observers used to maintain a virtual line of sight between drones and operators

For the tests, Blue Bear set up a three-kilometre Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) race track within the Cranfield Air Traffic Zone.

At the moment, drones must be operated within the sight of the operator at all times. The test used observers to provide information about the drone’s flight to the operator so maintaining the line of sight.

During this first phase of testing, the Cranfield Air Traffic Zone was cleared of manned aircraft,

Eventually the corridor will stretch across Bedfordshire from Blue Bear’s headquarters in Oakley to Cranfield University’s airport.

Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, said:

“These initial flights, mark an important step in the realisation of NBEC, which will be a national asset that will support the journey to the creation of a Unified Traffic Management system.”