Thales and Vodafone join UK BVLOS corridor

March 12, 2019
By UAV Canada Staff
Thales and Vodafone have joined the United Kingdom’s National Beyond Visual Line of Sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) partnership, alongside founding partners Cranfield University and Blue Bear Research Systems.

Cranfield explains the project is closely aligned to the Aerospace Sector Deal, a government initiative to drive industry collaboration to support the future of mobility in the British economy. This project is designed to examine the real-world impact of digital transformation to jointly develop innovations within and between digitized airline operations, aircraft, airspace management and airports.

News of joining the NBEC partnership builds on an existing partnership between Thales and the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), based at Cranfield University. Cranfield explains the NBEC partnership brings to life Thales’ efforts to safely and securely integrate unmanned systems into UK airspace by integrating the airspace situation into the software solution devised for NBEC.

“Our solutions will help to build the foundations for an entirely new air transport system, based on clean, electric and hybrid air vehicles,” said Steve Murray, VP strategy and marketing, Thales UK. “For example, this will enable the routine, safe and secure use of drones for infrastructure  surveillance and inspection, logistics delivery services and a future in which  urban air mobility is a reality. Digital Trust is at the core of all we do and our role in the project will contribute significantly in the areas of cyber security and the concept of centralized management for drone operations and UAV traffic management to ensure the safety and security of the airspace.”

The NBEC flight corridor will be used to demonstrate how 4G and 5G mobile technology can be used to identify and track the location of a drone in real time, a critical step in ensuring that autonomous BVLOS flights are safe. This will complement existing satellite-based [location systems, which provide accurate location estimates but can be open to jamming and compromise.

Mobile connectivity on a drone, explains Cranfield, will provide a secondary feed of location-based information, enabling a more robust and trusted picture of the drone’s location.

Blue Bear and Cranfield recently completed the first test flights to establish the principles for the NBEC project at Cranfield Airport. The ultimate goal is to see the corridor eventually stretch across Bedfordshire from Blue Bear’s headquarters in Oakley to Cranfield University’s airport.

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