Wisk has completed a series of test flights aimed at evaluating the operational integration of uncrewed aircraft flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) into controlled airspace among other piloted aircraft.
The latest flights are part of the Airspace Integration Trials Programme (AITP), a four-year project being run by the New Zealand Government. They have demonstrated a safe process for uncrewed aircraft to access controlled airspace and created a significant new understanding and capability for commercial autonomous flight operations, said Wisk.
Multiple flights took place between November 17 and December 1, 2023, which demonstrated a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) can be operated under instrument flight rules (IFR) in controlled airspace and integrated with regular crewed traffic. The flights took place at the Tāwhaki National Aerospace Centre at Kaitorete, involving take-offs, landings, and uncontrolled and controlled airspace navigation.
Wisk is working closely with the New Zealand Government and industry partners on the program including: defense firm Insitu Pacific as the approved RPA operator; the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA); air navigation service provider (ANSP) Airways New Zealand and its uncrewed traffic management system AirShare, and aerospace test centre Tāwhaki, which provides ground and flight testing facilities.
Catherine MacGowan, Wisk’s vice president of Asia-Pacific and air operations said, “The successful completion of this phase of testing demonstrates that it is possible to safely integrate autonomous aircraft into controlled airspace that is shared with piloted aircraft. The processes, data, and learnings from these trial flights will help shape the future of Advanced Air Mobility and the broader aviation industry.”
James Evans, acting general manager air traffic services at ANSP Airways New Zealand said, “Our purpose as New Zealand’s air navigation service provider is to keep our skies safe, today and tomorrow. We value the chance to work with an innovator like Wisk to help shape the future by supporting it to trial the safe integration of uncrewed aerial vehicles into our controlled airspace.”
Tāwhaki CEO, Linda Falwasser, said: “We’re proud to support world-leading innovation to take flight from our Tāwhaki National Aerospace Centre at Kaitorete. It’s great to be working in partnership as part of the Airspace Integration Trials Programme to chart a path for an adaptive, exciting, sustainable future for aerospace transport.”