in Defence / Features

When the pilot is just one option

Posted 3 December 2020 · Add Comment

Efforts to allow unmanned aircraft to fly safely in unsegregated airspace have taken a step forward with the aid of South African company S-Plane Automation.

Flexible: S-Plane’s equipment allows an aircraft to switch between piloted, remotely piloted or completely autonomous modes.


Somerset West-based S-Plane’s X-KIT has been fitted to a Tecnam 2006T light piston-engined twin under Project Targus, where Spanish electronics company, Indra, is developing an optionally piloted vehicle. Alan Dron reports.

X-KIT consists of the necessary automation, simulation, communication and ground control equipment to convert a piloted aircraft. “It’s a core kit that we sell to various customers to take manned or unmanned aircraft and convert them to manned, unmanned or optionally piloted systems,” explained S-Plane CEO, Thomas Jones.

“We provide all the equipment, but also all the services the clients need to make the necessary aircraft. Every aircraft is a little bit different.”

X-KIT allows an aircraft to be switched between manual piloting, remote piloting (where it is controlled from the ground) and automated piloting (where the aircraft is completely autonomous, flying a mission via waypoints).

Flying an unpiloted vehicle in unsegregated airspace, where it can safely mix with piloted aircraft, is a major goal of companies seeking to increase the usefulness of unpiloted vehicles.

The modified aircraft undertook two weeks of flight tests in Galicia, northwest Spain, in June and July.

Flights were approved and monitored by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Spanish aviation regulator, AESA. No other newly developed unpiloted or optionally piloted aircraft has previously been granted permission to carry out such flights, noted Indra.

A test pilot carried out the take-off. Once airborne, he handed over control to a ground control centre.

Indra said that its strategy of developing a drone able to carry a pilot to take control if necessary “offers a great operational advantage for future users, who will be able to fly over urban areas or land at airports without restrictions when manned, and fly without a pilot when it arrives at the operation area. This dual use significantly enhances the commercial appeal and capabilities of Targus.”
Development is scheduled to conclude this year. Indra sees the aircraft as suitable for a range of missions, including maritime patrol and environmental monitoring duties.


 

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

IATA warns governments on high cost of testing

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to take action to address the high cost of COVID-19 tests in many jurisdictions and urged flexibility in permitting the use of cost-effective antigen tests as an

Gulfstream exceeds 500 in-flight connectivity service installations

Gulfstream Aerospace has surpassed 500 installations of the Inmarsat Jet ConneX in-flight connectivity platform on large- cabin aircraft. The Wi-Fi solution is available on new aircraft and can be retrofitted on qualifying existing

Embraer delivered 34 jets in Q2 of 2021

Embraer delivered a total of 34 jets in the second quarter of 2021, of which 14 were commercial aircraft and 20 were executive jets (12 light and eight large).

ICAO SG highlights African aviation's growth potential

Addressing Africa’s aviation leaders last week, most notably through her opening of the 2021 AFI Aviation Week, ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu highlighted the tremendous potential future for aviation in Africa that could be

Single-engine Denali aircraft joins Beechcraft turboprop family

Textron Aviation is realigning its turboprop aircraft lineup as the single-engine Beechcraft Denali (previously branded the Cessna Denali) to join the legendary twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 260 and King Air 360/360ER as part of

Rostec starts developing hydrogen-powered aircraft engines

United Engine Corporation of Rostec has started a programme to develop hydrogen-powered engines for both aviation and ground applications.

Aviation Africa 2021 SKOC
See us at
WDS BT1202090322Aviation MENA 2022DAS21_BTAviation Africa 2021 BTOC