Cranfield Airport Named as Regulatory Sandbox to Drive Drone Integration in the UK Forward

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Cranfield Airport selected for trial area to advance UAS integration in the UK.

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Walker Robinson

Cranfield Airport has been chosen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to participate in a Temporary Reserved Area (TRA) Regulatory Sandbox which will integrate manned and unmanned aircrafts in the same airspace. The TRA Sandbox is part of the CAA’s Airspace Modernization Strategy to enable and advance the adoption of UAVs, among other advanced tech, into the United Kingdom’s airspace.

Cranfield Airport is located in Bedfordshire, England, just 50 miles north of London and is owned by Cranfield University. The University is recognized for its world-renowned aerospace program with over seven decades of aircraft research and design. They now look towards the future to explore what new capabilities can be achieved through the technological advancements of the last decade in both manned and unmanned aircrafts.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), a multinational accounting firm, estimates that the UAV industry in the UK may grow to contribute £45 billion to the UK economy, with 900,000 drones in operation by 2030. For this to be realized, there must be exhaustive efforts to safely integrate unmanned aircrafts into the existing aerospace industry, and this begins with the Airspace Modernization Strategy laid out by the CAA.

Cranfield Airport Operations Director Rob Abbott said, “The airspace of the future will be increasingly complex. The TRA Sandbox is a clear indication of the CAA’s support for innovation and seeks to address the need to progress adoption of manned and unmanned aircraft in UK Airspace. I’m pleased that Cranfield Airport with this TRA Sandbox will host more groundbreaking projects and trials to improve industry knowledge, processes and systems. This is vital to unlocking the potential of commercial drone use, and safely bringing UAS aircraft into shared airspace.”

Cranfield Airport expects that numerous industry partners will participate in projects and live demonstrations of UAV and manned aircraft integration. This will be performed under the advice and guidance of the CAA, and their results will be a blueprint for regulatory guidelines that the CAA will enact.

Rob Abbott continued, “The approach we are taking to integrate, based on established ATS services, builds on years of experience at Cranfield. Cranfield’s Global Research Airport, operated by one of the world’s leading universities in aviation, is uniquely able to bring together the airport, air traffic control and operations for truly collaborative research and development.

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Walker Robinson is a 2022 Graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara with a passion for renewable energy and emerging technologies. An early career professional experienced in both sales and development of residential and utility-scale renewable energy systems, he is delighted to be part of the drone industry.

Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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