UK planes without pilots to start testing
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A plane that can be flown without pilots is being tested in preparation for its maiden voyage in UK airspace later this year.
The BAE Systems Jetstream aircraft will undergo at least 20 flights over the Irish Sea and through UK airspace, and will have people on board to take controls just in case of an emergency.
According to Sky News, the aim of the trial is to demonstrate to regulators like the Civil Air Authority that these aircrafts, known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, will be able to be used safely in UK airspace.
The tests are part of a project called Astraea, which stands for Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation Assessment.
A statement from Astraea explains the trials will include "the world's first use of autonomous, vision-based weather-avoidance routing and the first UK surrogate flight of a fully functional visual sense-and-avoid system which includes collision avoidance tests using a second aircraft".
According to the project's engineering director, the market for civil unmanned aircraft would be to perform tasks too dangerous or risky for humans to carry out.
Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal told Sky News: "It would have been useful with the volcanic ash cloud, for instance, when we had no way of actually knowing what was happening."
He predicts UAV flights will be in existence in around three to four years, but that pilot-free passenger planes are unlikely to ever take flight.
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