Page 14 - ATC Special Bulletin Series - Future Skies 2024
P. 14

                                Airspace integration
key to enabling next generation of aviation
By Mark Balsdon, Head of New Airspace Users Business Development and Account Management
We are on the verge of the biggest transformation in aviation since the advent of the jet engine. The use of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones and advanced air mobility (AAM) eVTOL flights are going to transform travel, logistics and a whole range of industries.
I say that based on what has already been achieved and the foundations laid,
bvlos rev
even if much remains to be done.
NATS has supported BVLOS projects around the UK doing pioneering work, but that’s largely through the use of segregated airspace to keep those operators away from conventional air traffic. Fundamentally it is not a scalable way of operating.
Flylogix is a company we support that performs environmental assessments
of oil and gas rigs in the North Sea. A dangerous job that would usually mean chartering helicopters, this can now be done using remotely piloted drones while emitting a fraction of the CO2. But what Flylogix and companies like them need is a way to grow. They need the industry to find a way to freely accommodate BVLOS - and AAM operators - and that means new regulations, new technologies and new ways of working. In short, it means full airspace integration.
So how do we unleash these opportunities, while protecting the operations of existing airspace users?
NATS’ new airspace users roadmap aims to provide some of these answers,
and is built around tenets of safety, equitability, innovation and the integration of all airspace users.
While part of our vision is focussed
on infrastructure and data sharing, another looks at the procedures needed to ensure safe integration. Our focus
is on providing the infrastructure and concepts of operation. In short, we’re laying the foundations to get
people flying.
2023 marked a significant moment in that journey. Firstly, we saw NATS share a vision for the delivery of fundamental aeronautical and data sharing services called NATS OpenAir. Secondly, we saw breakthroughs in two projects as part of the UK Future Flight Challenge.
The Future Flight Challenge is a £125m UK Research and Innovation initiative aimed at stimulating the development of new aviation technologies, including
drones and AAM. NATS is involved in several projects, but two in particular gave us a glimpse of the future.
In October, Project Caelus delivered
a BVLOS drone flight out of Glasgow Airport – a quiet moment of aviation history and a demonstration that BVLOS operations are possible within controlled airspace at an international airport.
Project Caelus could be a game changer for NHS patients in the remoter parts
of Scotland. Today, a 15-minute cancer treatment can take hours and involve a 70-mile journey by car and ferry. Routine drone deliveries could help change this, with supplies and samples delivered rapidly, within a time-controlled window with medical grade, temperature controlled and monitored packaging.
Behind the scenes, our teams worked to ensure the procedures were in place for the drone flight to happen
safely. Alongside this, our analytics and R&D teams are developing technology
and simulation models to provide evidence to support how this could

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