Can drones and commercial aircraft safely share airspace?

Eyes on the sky: Can drones and commercial aircraft safely share airspace?

In a follow-up to last week’s interview with Professor Antonios Tsourdos from Cranfield University’s new DARTeC research centre, Internet of Business asks the professor about the future of drones in UK airspace.

Internet of Business (IoB): Can drones be integrated into civilian airspace and if so what is needed to make this happen? What would an integrated system for aircraft and drones look like?

Antonios Tsourdos of Cranfield University's DARTeC

Antonios Tsourdos of Cranfield University’s DARTeC

Professor Antonios Tsourdos (AT): Our Air Traffic Control (ATC) systems run on the basis of principles that are now 60 years old. It’s partly a result of this context that UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] are perceived as an unmanageable threat to safety. Yes, safety must come first, but airspace management must also evolve in line with the needs of societies and economies. If the potential of UAVs and related innovations as a platform for economic development aren’t already in the minds of government policy-makers, they soon will be.

A major research project AIRSTART (Accelerated Integration of Reliable Small UAV systems Through Applied Research & Testing), funded by Innovate UK via the Aerospace Technology Institute is due to run until the end of this year. The collaborative project is being led by Airbus Group Innovations, working with a range of partners and stakeholders (including the Civil Aviation Authority, NATS and UAV trade association ARPAS-UK); research institutes such as Cranfield University and the University of Southampton; small and medium-sized enterprises including advanced rotary engine manufacturer Rotron; and end users for the technology, such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), for search operations, and Western Power Distribution, for inspection of power lines.

There are four pillars to the AIRSTART research: detection and avoidance of air traffic to improve safety and enable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations in crowded or regulated airspace; smart perception to enable UAS around ground-based objects and infrastructure; secure and robust communications using lasers to provide high-speed data and situational awareness, as well as pinpointing the vehicle’s exact location in-flight; and, developing high-efficiency engines for UAS operations to extend flight durations and payload, while decreasing costs and increasing productivity.

Read more: UK students develop drone traffic management system

Airside functions

IoB: Are you thinking about systems that include drones as performing airside functions such as carrying goods around – or other tasks?

AT: Autonomous vehicles have an important to role to play in on-ground activities. Modern aircraft are expensive and sophisticated pieces of kit, and on the runways they are exposed to a flurry of work by staff, under pressure and working at speed – bringing dangers for people and aircraft. Autonomous systems for baggage loading, refuelling, monitoring and providing maintenance, each of them sharing data, can make on-ground services more efficient, reliable and safer.

IoB: What would be required on the part of a private drone owner to make this system work?

AT: Integrating UAVs into airspace will need to be based around the new national licensing scheme from drones weighing over 250 grams, backed up by formal legislation and tough penalties for unlicensed and irresponsible activity, with every UAV needing to work above a set height or outside of particular limited areas, registered on a national database.

UAVs will be trackable at all times, with the potential to be made inoperable if regulations aren’t respected. The range of practical uses for UAVs, especially as they become more accepted as part of everyday operations and services, means they are also going to be attractive for criminal activity.

Police will need to play their part in ensuring there’s safe and responsible use of UAVs, just as they do with motor vehicles. Police guidelines on dealing with dangerous UAV use highlights the struggle with anticipating the impact of new technologies, recommending that rather than attempting to take over control of a rogue UAV, police officers should wait for its battery to run out. More officers in future will need to have a level of training in the safe operation of a UAV, to defuse any potential imminent dangers as quickly as possible and avoid any threats to public safety.

The technology already exists for police or other authorities to override the controls of UAVs posing a threat, and this kind of management control is likely to form an important foundation for an integrated manned and unmanned airspace.

For more insight into the world of connected aviation and the impact that IoT technologies will have on airlines and airports, readers may be interested in attending our Internet of Aviation event, to be held at London Heathrow on 7 & 8 November.

The post Can drones and commercial aircraft safely share airspace? appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Honeywell’s IoT Connected Aircraft takes flight


Industrial automation company Honeywell has taken its Boeing 757 IoT-connected test aircraft on a tour, in order to showcase its promise for the flying experiences of pilots, passengers and aircraft operators.

Since May 31, Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft has been travelling the world as part of Honeywell’s ‘The Power of Connected World Tour‘. The plane took off from San Francisco International Airport, stopping off in Mexico City, Panama City, London, and the Paris Air Show. It will now make its way to cities in the Middle East and Asia.

With the growth of internet connectivity and IoT applications already changing the way life works on the ground, Honeywell is seeking to demonstrate a new era of connected Wi-Fi in the skies through its world tour. With its Connected Aircraft, the company hopes to show that connectivity can improve flights for pilots, passengers and flight operators alike.

“For us, there’s nothing more heavy metal than creating a more comfortable flight for passengers, with less turbulence, fewer delays and better high-speed internet,” said Kristin Slyker, vice president for connected aircraft at Honeywell Aerospace. “We’re using data to avoid bad weather and better prepare pilots, and we’re striving to get rid of maintenance delays with technology that can predict problems before they happen.”

Read more: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular smart city transport

Connected pilots, passengers and planes

Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft includes a range of technologies from flightbags to maintenance, developed by Honeywell’s GoDirect brand for connected aviation products.

The GoDirect Flight Preview gives pilots an accurate, three-dimensional preview of the runaway and surrounding areas to assist with safety during take off and difficult approaches for landing.

GoDirect Weather supposedly provides pilots with real-time weather data on the flight path, so that they can take the safest and most efficient routes possible. In addition, a connected radar will collate crowdsourced weather information from other aircraft and share any updates through an application. This should give an accurate view of weather around the world.

For passengers, Honeywell’s GoDirect Cabin Connectivity technology provides exactly what it suggests, connectivity in the cabin for apps and services as well as real-time TV, video conferencing and Voice Over IP. Honeywell’s JetWave system enables passengers to connect to satellite telecommunications provider Inmarsat’s satellites for broadband connectivity. The company claims this provides the same internet speed and reliability that passengers can access at home.

To improve the aircraft’s performance, GoDirect Fuel Efficiency software collects, monitors, and analyzes data to help operators optimize fuel efficiency across a fleet. This data is used to influence flight paths, so that pilots take the most fuel-efficient route.

Finally, Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance technology is aimed at using data to help airlines to better maintain their fleets. Honeywell executives say that airlines now no longer need to reactively fix mechanical systems like auxiliary power units or wheels and brakes. Instead, they can use data to proactively troubleshoot mechanical issues to avoid aircraft downtime.

“We’ve been helping airplanes connect since U2 came on the scene, and now we’re connecting aircraft in more insightful and powerful ways. We’re taking the aerospace industry into the digital age, and most importantly, making flight better,” said Slyker.

Read more: IoT in aviation? Rolls Royce says it’s about to get messy [with data]

The post Honeywell’s IoT Connected Aircraft takes flight appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

FliteTrak launches smart seating for aircraft cabins

UK aerospace company FliteTrak is launching smart seating technology that it claims will revolutionize cabin metrics and maintenance. 

The increasing level of technology wired into aircraft cockpits has been staggering in recent years. Analogue instruments have given way to electronic displays and touchscreens; auto-pilot systems are now smart enough to be in control for the majority of a flight. Now one UK start-up wants to bring that level of automation and awareness into the cabin.

FliteTrak is set to launch its ViatorAero smart seat technology with a number of aviation interior companies across Europe. 

Read more: Turkish Airlines takes flight with IoT, AI chatbots and tech start-ups

In-flight IoT

ViatorAero technology brings a new level of in-flight analysis to the cabin, monitoring individual seats for temperature, passenger movement and seatbelt closure. It can also control and lock overhead containers, detect mobile phone activation and provide an environmental overview of the entire cabin interior.

The information gathered is sent directly to the ViatorAero application, which the cabin crew can access with a smart device.

ViatorAero smart seat from FliteTrak

Low-power sensors in each seat are able to detect movement and the status of the seatbelt. It’s thought that this will make the work of the cabin crew more straightforward in two ways. First, instead of checking each belt by sight, a simple dashboard shows the status of every seat on the aircraft.

Second, movement sensors can indicate to cabin crew if a particular passenger is restless, uncomfortable or having difficulties. The crew can then monitor those passengers more closely and offer a personalized service.

Read more: IoT in flight as UN orders real-time aircraft tracking

Predictive maintenance and fleet efficiency

ViatorAero technology can also help aviation providers benefit from predictive maintenance and greater fleet efficiency. 

Broken equipment such as trays, seatbelts and screens can be logged and recorded by the cabin crew, with the data transmitted to maintenance crews for rapid correction. Sensors actively track the thickness of the foam seating, alerting a maintenance crew when wear and tear has reached a certain level.  

A range of cabin data is also logged for later analysis, which can provide useful information to help improve maintenance turnaround times and enhance the flying experience for passengers.

Currently, FliteTrak is working with two aviation interior companies. It is also joining forces with the Institute of Experimental Psychophysiology in Dusseldorf, looking closely at passenger comfort analysis using data from ViatorAero.

FliteTrak – propelling IoT into the sky

With the ability to detect mobile phone signals in flight and a range of predictive maintenance capabilities, FliteTrak could improve safety and efficiency for aviators. But it’s customer service where the technology comes to the fore.

FliteTrak’s joint managing director, Trevor Lea, said: “Innovative technology delivering personalized service for passengers and efficiencies for airlines is the future of air travel.”

“Underpinned by award-winning core technology, ViatorAero is aviation’s first ‘smart’ remote condition monitoring system of its kind which has been proven to work. It is unique technology which propels the Internet of Things into the sky, giving visionary airlines and suppliers the edge in an increasingly competitive market.”

He also hinted that the company’s strong relationships with European partners will not be affected by the Brexit vote. “We are working with leading aircraft interior companies to bring ViatorAero to market on a pan-European basis,” he said.

Although based in the UK, the impact of Brexit will be minimal, with strong continental relationships and clients in place, and an ambitious long-term growth strategy.”

FliteTrak will be exhibiting its technology the Paris Airshow on June 16 to 25.

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Internet of Business

Uber poaches a NASA aircraft engineer to fulfil our flying car dreams

2020 was portrayed in sci-fi flicks as being a futuristic year of hoverboards and flying cars, but as it approaches, it’s becoming evident the most realistic expectation we can hope for is driverless cars. 

Ride-sharing giant Uber isn’t ready to give up on the dream of flying cars, however, and has just announced the company’s recruitment of NASA Engineer Mark Moore to become the director of engineering at Uber Elevate. UBERMAP

Uber Elevate is what the firm calls its R&D department exploring airborne on-demand transportation. Moore, an esteemed NASA veteran, consulted on an Uber whitepaper exploring VTOL (Vertical Take-Off And Landing) aircraft. During his time collaborating on the project, Moore was reportedly impressed with Uber’s work. 

From an outside perspective, Moore seemed destined to join the Uber Elevate team. In the past, he’s shared a similar vision for airborne cars, while Uber has long-expressed a desire to launch such a service and even plans to hold a summit in early 2017” on the matter. A key factor in Moore deciding to join Uber Elevate, he says, is the company has put forward a practical business case for making it a reality. 

The case Moore references is outlined in Uber’s paper which details the significant time and cost savings that VTOL aircraft could enable. In one provided example of a journey between San Francisco and San Jose, an UberX today would cost $ 111 and take approximately 1 hour 40 mins. The same journey, taken by a VTOL aircraft, Uber predicts would take 15 mins and eventually cost just $ 20.

Beyond the advancements in technology required to make this dream a reality, the next hurdle will be regulation around things such as traffic control, safety, emissions, urban noise, pilot training, and supporting infrastructure. While I don’t think we’ll have flying cars as sci-fi promised in 2020, it’s good to see the dream hasn’t been abandoned. 

Author: Ryan Daws, Editor, TechForge. Orginially published on IoT news.

(c) iStockPhoto/kasinv

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