UK drone testing corridor to trial holographic radar

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The UK’s unmanned air systems test area is to use a new holographic radar technology for improved tracking of multiple air

The National Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) is a 10 mile area stretching from Cranfield University’s research airport to Blue Bear Systems Research Twinwoods test site in Bedfordshire,

NBEC will assess how unmanned air systems (UAS) can fly in the same airspace as manned aircraft for a range of applications, including for the emergency services and medical industries.

The holographic radar is a technology from Aveillant, a Thales subsidiary, which is partnering on NBEC alongside Vodafone, UAS company Blue Bear Systems Research and Cranfield University.

Aveillant’s radars are already being used to detect drones at several international airports, to prevent unmanned systems from entering the flight path. This same radar technology is being applied at NBEC, with Aveillant’s Gamekeeper Radar successfully tested over the last month at Blue Bear’s facility.

Dominic Walker, CEO at Aveillant said, “The radar successfully detected and tracked a number of different drones, with excellent correlation between the detected and real tracks. This test proves and de-risks the technology which will underpin the NBEC airspace monitoring.”

Aveillant’s Holographic Radar system differs from traditional mechanically scanned radars and electronically scanned systems, by floodlighting a volume of interest on transmit, and forming multiple simultaneous receive beams that fill the illuminated volume.

The technology, which requires only a very narrow bandwidth, performs better against multiple targets because it can digitize the entire volume of airspace it sees.

NBEC’s test centre is expected to be open for use by the aerospace industry by this summer.

NBEC is working closely with the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), which is also under construction at Cranfield. The NBEC testing facility is also one of six companies selected to join the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) “Innovation Sandbox”, for drone application development and future adoption.

Director of Aerospace at Cranfield, Professor Iain Gray said, “NBEC is a national asset that will help unlock the potential of a modernised UK airspace. The key to future drone operations is not segregation, but full integration, ensuring fair and equitable use of airspace.”

 

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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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