A national facility to test how unmanned air systems (UAS) will be able to fly in the same airspace as manned aircraft is trialling unique holographic radar technology with groundbreaking results.

Radar specialist Aveillant, a wholly-owned Thales company, brought its Gamekeeper Radar for testing in the National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) in December.

Regulations currently require drones to operate within visual line of sight of the operator at all times. NBEC – a collaboration between Cranfield, Blue Bear Systems Research, Thales and Vodafone – will provide a safe, managed environment for unmanned aircraft experimentation.

Aveillant’s radars are already used to detect drones at several international airports to prevent unmanned systems from entering flight paths.

Dr Dominic Walker, Chief Executive Officer 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.”

NBEC will be opening for use by the aerospace industry in the summer of 2020.

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.”

Aveillant’s holographic radar system differs fundamentally from traditional mechanically scanned radars and electronically scanned systems, requiring only a very narrow bandwidth. With excellent detection performance against multiple targets, holographic radar digitises the entire volume of airspace it sees; a fundamental advance on any form of scanning radar.

NBEC stretches 10 miles from Cranfield’s global research airport towards Blue Bear Systems Research Twinwoods test site near its headquarters in Oakley.

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