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Thales Commissions Study on UAV Airspace Use

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Thales Commissions Study to Advance Australian UAV Research

(Source: Thales Australia; issued October 18, 2013)

Thales Australia has commissioned the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) at Queensland University of Technology to advance Australian research into the implications for air traffic management of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in non-segregated civil airspace.

Thales CEO Chris Jenkins said as a leader in UAV research ARCAA was ideally suited to undertake the study, adding that while UAVs were yet to enter civil airspace on a routine basis, they would become more prevalent.

"UAVs are moving at a rapid pace beyond the military sphere into the realm of governments and the private sector. Their use will grow in the future, and air traffic management systems need to be ready to cater for them.

"As the prime contractor for Australia’s air traffic management system and a major exporter of the technology, we are uniquely placed to work closely with ARCAA and other stakeholders to progress the integration of UAVs into the existing ATM framework. This valuable research builds on the significant ATM investment we have made in Australia over two decades, and extends the reach of our Centre for Advanced Studies in ATM (CASIA), based in Melbourne."

ARCAA Director Professor Duncan Campbell said: "We will undertake a scoping study to identify the key challenges associated with the routine operation of UAVs within the Australian airspace management system including collaboration with the Wackett Aerospace Research Centre at RMIT University."

"We will identify existing UAV airspace integration work being conducted elsewhere in the world including projects being conducted by Thales and pin-point any operational concepts specific to operating UAVs in Australia’s distinctive environment.

"As well, the challenges of responsibly operating UAVs within the current airspace system will be identified and a proposal put forward for a full research program to move the research forward."

Professor Campbell said ARCAA was well advanced on research to address key hurdles to UAVs’ ability to fly in civil airspace. "We are working on projects to enable UAVs to detect and avoid other craft and to automatically land safely in an emergency. Overcoming these technical hurdles will allow us to move one step closer to a fully integrated airspace where UAVs will be able to be utilised for many new civilian applications."

He said UAVs had the potential to provide great benefits, particularly in times of disaster, when the aircraft could be sent to scope bushfires or floods and provide real-time vision to emergency response managers.

Thales is a global technology leader in the Aerospace, Transportation and Defence & Security markets. In 2012, the company generated revenues of €14.2 billion (equivalent of AUD 17.6 billion) with 65,000 employees in 56 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers and local partners.

Thales Australia is a trusted partner of the Australian Defence Force and is also present in commercial sectors ranging from air traffic management to security systems and services. Employing around 3,200 people in over 35 sites across the country, Thales Australia recorded revenues of AUD 1 billion in 2012.