Simon Jewell is Chairman of ASTRAEA and was fundamental to the inception of the programme. He has worked for BAE Systems for over 25 years where he gives strategic direction and funding to develop new technologies for customers in defence and security.
Starting his career in the British Army, Simon then moved to the Air Force of Oman, gaining a first-hand understanding of the requirements of the front line. Over time he has seen those requirements evolve and recognises the role new technology has and the benefits it brings.
Here, Simon looks back at the start of ASTRAEA and tells us how he hopes the progress and legacy of the programme will shape the future for unmanned air systems:
“A year before ASTRAEA began, the National Aerospace Technology Strategy (NATS) was released. It included mention of unmanned air systems and their increasing importance in the future. The UK Trade Associations asked me to set up a team to investigate the importance of unmanned systems and inform future strategy.
Bringing together major stakeholders such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), UK Government, three Regional Government Agencies, the Welsh Assembly Government, Scottish Enterprise, the UK Ministry of Defence and the Police, together with broad representation from public and private sectors, it was clear that we first needed to address the operational environment of unmanned air systems.
ASTRAEA was created in 2006 with funding and sponsorship from the stakeholders. Phase 1 lasted 3 years; the main objective was to determine how we could enable the routine operation of unmanned air vehicles in UK airspace. This would then allow us to identify potential market opportunities for UK industry.
In 2010 the second 3 year phase of ASTRAEA was launched. Our aims are to continue to develop key technologies ensuring reliable, secure and safe operation, and to mature the regulatory environment to enable use in UK airspace. We have made significant progress with the proposal of an ASTRAEA-CAA virtual certification plan that will allow us to plot and document the route to UAS certification and ensure an acceptable technical and regulatory framework which will lead to certified solutions.
We have learned a lot from the partnership and are keen to share our learning and encourage involvement from others in the UK and internationally. Recently NATS joined ASTRAEA. Validation of the good work already done, this new addition to the team brings a much better understanding of the practicalities of sharing UK airspace.
The public perception of unmanned air systems is not always positive. The benefits UAS can bring to our security and defence capabilities are vast, but there is a much wider application. One way that ASTRAEA engages with the public and helps improve perception and understanding is the annual ASTRAEA conference. Recently held in London, the event gave us a valuable opportunity to discuss unmanned air systems and their applications ranging from the British Antarctic Survey to remote sensing for crop management.
So, what do I see for the future of ASTRAEA and beyond? Phase 2 runs until 2013, culminating in UK flight trials. ASTRAEA was created to define the environment in which UAS could operate in the UK. By achieving this it will enable those involved to take the learning forward, share it with others and further evolve the regulations, the technology, specify requirements and develop capabilities. Perhaps, late in the decade we will start to realise the vision set for ASTRAEA those years before; the routine use of UAS without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation.”
About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a global defence and security company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and support services. In 2010, BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 34.6 billion).
It’s the second largest global defence company, based on 2009 revenues, with approximately 100,000 employees worldwide. It has customers in more than 100 countries.