Islander aircraft to get autonomous flight technology

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UK-based aerospace companies Britten-Norman and Blue Bear are to jointly develop a

to make autonomous flight a reality by the mid 2020’s. Autonomous flight capabilities, alongside zero carbon air vehicles, will be necessary to make future regional aerial mobility affordable and improve interoperability.

60-year old firm Britten-Norman makes the Islander light utility aircraft, which is used for a variety of roles including regional commercial and military transport and was originally designed in the 1960s.  A fleet of around 750 Islanders operates around the world today according to Britten-Norman.

The company is to partner with Blue Bear a developer of unmanned systems and air autonomy to automate the operation of a Britten-Norman Islander.

The project’s first milestone will be to demonstrate single pilot operations with an autonomous co-pilot providing assistance. The companies plan to for this autonomous co-piloted aircraft to enter service in the mid 2020s for regional air operators.

William Hynett, CEO of Britten-Norman said, “We have become used to the car of the future incorporating green and autonomous technology and the future of aviation will undergo a similar revolution. Blue Bear is the leading light when it comes to air autonomy technology, it is an absolute privilege to be partnering on this project and I look forward to our companies achieving great developments together.”

Yoge Patel, CEO of Blue Bear said, “We are  delighted to be working with Britten-Norman, whose talent for rapidly turning new challenges into solutions for their customers is remarkable. We have found a kindred spirit, in so many aspects, with whom the next era of aviation can be genuinely realised. It’s a perfect match. Two agile SMEs with their own dedicated systems integration and flight test facilities can de-risk and flight prove innovations at an unprecedented pace.”

Islander poster

To celebrate the Islander’s automation project the companies have released an image designed to echo early travel posters

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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