A demonstration at Manchester Airport has shown that drones can be flown safely alongside manned aircraft in controlled airspace.
‘Operation Zenith’ saw the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), overseen by NATS air traffic controllers communicating with drone operators via Altitude Angel’s Guardian Airspace Management Operating System, successfully perform a series of on-airfield tasks without endangering or disrupting airport operations.
Scenarios included equipment delivery, runway inspections and obeying an automated instruction to clear the skies for an ‘emergency’ police helicopter landing.
The operation was designed to show how it is possible to unlock the enormous social and economic benefit of UAVs whilst protecting manned aviation.
It was presented by a collaboration led by NATS, the unmanned traffic management (UTM) aviation technology company Altitude Angel and Manchester Airport - and live-streamed to an invited audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) in London.
The NATS Safety Director commented: ‘Operation Zenith has been an outstanding success in bringing together the manned and unmanned aviation industry to shine a light on our vision for the future of aviation . .’
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Altitude Angel added: ‘We are very pleased with the performance of GuardianUTM O/S, our airspace management solution, during Operation Zenith . . We look forward to supporting NATS’ expansion plans as it rolls-out the Airspace User Portal (AUP) powered by GuardianUTM . .’
Head of Airfield Operations at Manchester Airport concluded: ‘We are delighted how the demonstration came together to showcase how manned and un-manned aviation can be undertaken collaboratively within controlled airspace . .’