During AOS’s successful week at the Farnborough Airshow (14-18 July), many discussions at our stand in Hall 4 revolved around our part in ASTRAEA (Autonomous System Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment). This joint UK government/private enterprise programme was introduced on this website in an August 2006 news item where we outlined its focus – the technologies, systems, facilities and procedures that will allow autonomous vehicles to operate safely and routinely in UK civil airspace. Discussions at Farnborough centred on the accomplishments of that first phase as well as plans for the follow-up programme, ASTRAEA 2.
In the adjacent photo, AOS's Director of North American Operations, Andy Park (right) welcomes Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham and Minister of State for (UK) Trade and Investment, to the AOS stand in Hall 4 at the Farnborough Airshow.
AOS was a full industrial partner in ASTRAEA 1 and will be again in the planned ASTRAEA 2 (along with BAE Systems, Thales UK, Rolls-Royce, EADS, QinetiQ and Cobham). ASTRAEA 1 not only saw a JACK-based autonomous, decision-making system integrated with on and off-board mission planning, collision avoidance and health management systems, but also the birth of our C-BDI safety-critical, decision-making system intended for integration in certifiable flight systems.
In addition, AOS was involved in a revision of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) CAP 722 (Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance) document. Andrew Lucas wrote a new Chapter 7 entitled UAS Autonomy, which is believed to be the world’s first official treatment of autonomy in the realm of civil air operations. According to the CAA document:
"Autonomy is the capability of the system to make decisions based upon an evaluation of the current situation (…situation awareness)… Autonomous systems should make a rational evaluation of the choices available and the possible courses of action…in light of this situation awareness. We expect such a rational system to then make 'good' decisions in terms of a human’s assessment of those available choices."
Next year, during ASTRAEA’s second phase, C-BDI implementation and testing is planned for several vehicles, including BAE Systems’ Herti UAV and both their Jetstream and BAC 1-11 “flying laboratories”. Also, C-BDI will be involved in the “Romeo 1” system demonstration, testing autonomous management of multiple power sources, e.g. engines and electrical generation. Certainly, Chapter 7 of CAP 722 will be scrutinised and put to the test as well. Ultimately, our C-BDI system is likely to become the prototype test case for autonomous systems approval by the CAA.
ASTRAEA 2 is due to start early in 2009 – expect an update here on our site as soon as an official announcement is made.
The ASTRAEA website is http://www.projectastraea.co.uk
URL for CAP 722 document is http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP722.pdf