Drones

Uncrewed Plane in Managed Airspace: Wisk Aero Demonstration

Aviation Consortium Achieves Milestone in Uncrewed Aircraft Integration in Controlled Airspace in New Zealand

An aviation collaboration, led by Wisk Aero, has successfully concluded a groundbreaking trial in New Zealand, evaluating the integration of uncrewed aircraft into controlled airspace. The trial, conducted under the New Zealand Government’s Airspace Integration Trial Programme (AITP), involved a series of test flights to assess the operational aspects of uncrewed aircraft flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) alongside piloted aircraft.

The completion of the trial, held between November 17 and December 1, 2023, signifies a notable advancement in autonomous flight operations. Collaborators included Insitu Pacific, the approved Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operator, the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA), Airways New Zealand as the air navigation service provider, and Tāwhaki, an indigenous aerospace venture providing the flight testing site. Airways International’s uncrewed traffic management (UTM) system, AirShare, played a crucial role in ensuring integration.

Andrew Duggan, Managing Director of Insitu Pacific, highlighted the collaborative effort, stating, “This series of flights, remotely-piloted by our Insitu Pacific operators, puts into action the significant planning and close collaboration we have undertaken to support Wisk.” The demonstration is seen as a step toward establishing a safe concept of operations for autonomous flight in non-segregated airspace.

Trials at the Tāwhaki National Aerospace Centre included take-offs, landings, and navigation in both uncontrolled and controlled airspace. James Evans, Acting General Manager Air Traffic Services at Airways New Zealand, emphasized the commitment to sky safety, stating, “Our purpose as New Zealand’s air navigation service provider is to keep our skies safe, today and tomorrow.”

Catherine MacGowan, Wisk’s Vice President of APAC and Air Operations, underscored the achievement’s significance, stating, “The successful completion of this phase of testing demonstrates that it is possible to safely integrate autonomous aircraft into controlled airspace shared with piloted aircraft.” The data and learnings from the trials are expected to contribute to the future of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and the broader aviation industry.

The partnership’s efforts received acknowledgment from CAA’s Deputy Chief Executive, Aviation Safety, David Harrison, who affirmed the commitment to the safe integration of emerging technologies into the civil aviation system in New Zealand. Linda Falwasser, CEO of Tāwhaki, expressed pride in supporting innovation at the Tāwhaki National Aerospace Centre and contributing to a sustainable future for aerospace transport.

The New Zealand Government’s AITP, initiated in 2019, is a four-year program aiming to ensure safety in airspace systems while advancing aviation and meeting community expectations. Wisk’s role in the program began in 2020 when it became the first industry partner to sign an MOU with the New Zealand government. The successful completion of this recent phase marks progress for the aviation sector, aligning with the program’s overarching priorities.

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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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