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Aerospace project lands top accolade

The ASTRAEA programme team receives its Team Silver Award at the Royal Aeronautical Societys (RAeS) annual awards

The ASTRAEA programme team receives its Team Silver Award at the Royal Aeronautical Societys (RAeS) annual awards

A pioneering project which involved aerospace workers from across the Fylde coast and was aimed at getting unmanned aircraft operating safely has received a top award.

The ASTRAEA programme collected the Team Silver Award at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s (RAeS) annual awards, which are among the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

The programme team, which includes BAE Systems workers along with leading aerospace companies and more than 100 universities and small businesses, has spent the past eight years working to open UK air space for unmanned aircraft to operate, culminating in a flight from BAE Systems’ site in Warton, to Inverness earlier this year.

That flight saw a Jetstream aircraft fly as a surrogate unmanned air system (UAS) through both controlled and uncontrolled air space, under the control of a ground-based pilot and alongside controllers from of the National Air Traffic Systems (NATS).

Frances Watkins, who represents BAE Systems on the ASTRAEA Industry Executive of companies behind the project, said the team was “delighted” to receive the award.

She said: “I am thrilled that the achievements of the team have been recognised: from the clever technology required to replace the on-board pilot with one on the ground, to the innovative means of formulating new regulations and procedures, to the planning and organisation of the complex flight trials undertaken.

“Unmanned aircraft have been flying for years, but always in very constrained airspace.

“Opening up regular airspace for unmanned flight is one of the next big challenges in aviation.

“We are proud to be a part of the ASTRAEA consortium, which is playing a leading role in this work.” The award ceremony, held at the RAeS’s headquarters in central London, was followed by the Society’s annual Wilbur and Orville Wright Lecture which honours the achievements of the brothers.

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