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Experts Tip ‘Unmanned’ as Air Travel Future in run up to Abu Dhabi Aviation Safety Debate

Global Aerospace Summit to examine applications of unmanned, autonomous, and remotely piloted aviation technology

12 January, 2016 – Abu Dhabi, UAE: Experts are tipping ‘unmanned’ as the future of air travel as they ready to debate innovation in aviation safety in Abu Dhabi next March.

The debate – part of the Global Aerospace Summit which will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on March 7 and 8 - will examine the commercialisation, public perception and regulation of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS), replacing pilots with greater cockpit automation and how to improve passengers’ trust in unmanned aircraft.

And while some sector leaders believe the future is ‘unmanned’ they admit there’s public reluctance to accept the trend – an issue, they say, could be due to nothing more than incorrect wordplay.

NATS Middle East, an innovative air traffic solutions and airport performance provider, says it’s working towards dispelling public misconceptions of unmanned technology and towards ensuring the safe integration of UAVs into UK airspace while adopting an enabling approach to support the needs of this new economic and recreational sector.
“The UAV industry is experiencing rapid growth across all branches of the sector. From small hobby craft, through their larger cousins designed for logistics, surveillance and asset inspection, right up to large payload carrying UAVs and even conventional sized aircraft,” says NATS Middle East Director, John Swift.

“This exciting, new economic opportunity, comes with some potential operational challenges. These are to control airspace, which has to be protected against the possibilities of incursions by unauthorised UAVs and managed to safely integrate authorised UAVs; and also to currently uncontrolled airspace which could begin to experience high and complex movement volumes.”

Experts point to recent issues which have called into question the use of UAVs, or ‘drones.’ In January 2015 an unidentified UAS brought air traffic to a halt for nearly an hour at Dubai International Airport. The misuse of civilian UAS has been identified as a major risk by the UAE government, and commercial and entertainment use of drones now requires a permit.

The USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says more than 600 UAS sightings were reported by commercial pilots in 2015 alone – up from 238 in 2014 – while Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) ascertained drones to be a safety risk in the event of a bush fire, not just for firefighting aircraft but also firefighters on the ground. They CASA says it will now fine people using drones near a bushfire $9000.

John Swift acknowledges the challenges and says a ‘hands-on approach’ is needed to tackle them. “NATS is responding to these challenges through active participation in trials with manufacturers and operators; in developing training courses, guidance materials and policy advice. As well, as participating in international industry forums and investigating registration schemes, tracking
technologies and research into the data and other services industry will need to operate safely and efficiently,” he says.
However, unmanned systems are proven to deliver important benefits in military use such as enhanced performance, reduced cost and eliminated personnel risks.

Textron Systems has designed and manufactured Unmanned Autonomous Systems for decades, as well training, deploying, operating, and maintaining them for military and commercial customers around the world.

“Unmanned systems have been used successfully among some of the world’s most advanced militaries for more than 25 years. Having conducted millions of flight hours of experience at some of the world’s busiest airfields and alongside manned aviation assets for military missions, world nations and civil aviation authorities are now making the transition to using these technologies to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into civil airspaces. For example, our Aerosonde™ Small Unmanned Aircraft System delivers the multi-mission flexibility and performance of a larger system in a highly expeditionary configuration ideally suited to a variety of military and commercial mission sets,” said Ellen Lord, President and CEO of Textron Systems.

“To date, Textron Systems’ unmanned systems have successfully completed missions in wildfire deterrence and meteorology, as well as oil and gas inspection and surveillance – and the opportunities for ‘dull, dirty, and dangerous missions’ are continuously expanding due to both the demonstrated successes with these systems, and the potential they bring for these types of jobs.”

UAE firms such as Adcom Systems, Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI) and the International Golden Group have already developed UAV operational and maintenance capabilities in joint ventures with firms from the United States, France, and Spain.

ADASI foresees the value of the Middle East UAV market from 2014 to 2023 rising to $4.5 billion, representing about 10 percent of the global UAV market during that period.

The Global Aerospace Summit’s 1,000 invited aerospace, aviation, space and defence elite delegates will hear the latest and future safety strategies from invited representatives of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Thales Avionics, Inc., Cathay Pacific Airlines and Emirates.
“The industry is acutely aware of increased public concern over air safety and will be looking for breakthrough technologies and techniques to secure this aspect of travel in both the short and long term,” said Nick Webb, Managing Partner of Streamline Marketing Group (SMG), which organises the biannual Summit.

Hosted by Mubadala Development Company, the 2016 Summit, the third in the series, is part of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Aviation and Aerospace Week, which is held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Abu Dhabi Airports Company is backing the Summit as an official event partner while Etihad Airways is its official airline.

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