Cranfield University teams with AOS on ASTRAEA

Farnborough Airshow 2010 - 04

ASTRAEA  (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) is a UK industry-led consortium focusing on the technologies, systems, facilities, procedures and regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles to operate safely and routinely in civil airspace over the United Kingdom. The aim of the programme is to enable the routine use of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) in all classes of airspace without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation.

AOS is one of the lead industry partners, along with BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales UK.

Working on the Autonomy and Decision Making project, AOS is funding a Masters project at Cranfield University to investigate pilot behaviour during inflight icing. To transition from piloted aircraft (whether remotely piloted or not) to autonomous aircraft requires significant analysis. Inflight icing is proving to be a very useful, if difficult, case study because:

  • It affects all aircraft, including the large majority of UAS if they are to operate in “all weather”
  • It remains a significant contributor to manned aircraft losses, even sophisticated, high-performance ones
  • Flight in icing conditions requires the human to continually absorb information, assess the risks, and make a decision to continue through, avoid or to exit icing

Consequently it is a rich subject for the study of human reasoning about action, and how the ADMS (Autonomous Decision Making System) will perform this reasoning if it is to offer the same, or better, outcomes in icing conditions.

Cranfield University's National Flying Laboratory Centre has developed a fully equipped "flying laboratory" onboard their Jetstream aircraft (pictured above). The plan is to flight test the developed autonomous behaviours onboard the Jetstream.

Through AOS, Cranfield will gain access to the groundbreaking UAS developments on the ASTRAEA project. The developed behaviours will assist with AOS's own UAS ADMS work and will form part of the Virtual Certification effort currently underway in ASTRAEA.

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