TRA Sandbox Announcement,

In collaboration with Cranfield Airport, Project BLUEPRINT has been selected to take part in the UK (United Kingdom) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Temporary Reserved Area (TRA) Regulatory Sandbox, which will allow us to work closely with the subject matter experts within the CAA to progress towards our objectives of successfully trialling integrated BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) drone operations within UK airspace. We are thrilled to be part of the sandbox, which is coordinated by the CAA’s Innovation Advisory Service.

The aims of the Sandbox are to:

Demonstrate and validate specific technologies, airspace management procedures, and flight operation procedures that are needed to enable the safe, efficient, and managed integration of BVLOS drone operations and crewed aircraft.

Enable the CAA to validate the use of the airspace policy concept with real world use cases to evidence how it supports and enables the accommodation phase of integrated operations within a Temporary Reserved Area (i.e. accommodation phase).

Through the TRA, enable participants to scale beyond segregation towards integration of BVLOS drone flights with crewed aircraft (i.e., integration phase).

About Project BLUEPRINT:

Project BLUEPRINT was one of the winning consortium projects of the UK Research & Innovation Future Flight Challenge Phase 3. The team is led by Neuron Innovations, and includes Ebeni, Cranfield Airport, Cranfield University, University of Southampton, Dronecloud, Anra Technologies, Sky-Drones, Distributed Avionics and Future Aerial Innovations.

The aim of project BLUEPRINT is to provide regulators, technology providers and operators with a “blueprint” for UK-wide rollout of BVLOS drone operations, which can be commercialised at scale. The blueprint will allow stakeholders to design, plan and build routine and persistent BVLOS drone capabilities that can be exported on a European level.  Project Blueprint is working with Cranfield Airport, the CAA and other TRA Sandbox partners, to develop a TRA BVLOS test environment at Cranfield Airport, which will enable drones and crewed aircraft to co-exist in a safe and efficient operating environment through the: 

  • Deployment of a low-cost ground-based detect and avoid network,
  • Development and integration of open-access UTM (UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Traffic Management) architecture into Cranfield Airport,
  • Production of six BLUEPRINTs to scale this concept of drone zone operation across the UK; applicable to specific category drone operations, both multi-rotor, single rotor and fixed wing drones up to approximately 500kg.  

The project intends to complete research & development flights within the TRA to reflect the rotary and fixed wing use cases and related end user benefits during the sandbox. This is to provide evidence to the regulator on the safety of ADS-B enabled BVLOS flight operations within TRA and aims to validate that ADS-B TRAs (Temporary Reserved Area) are effective in integrating all airspace users safely. 

BLUEPRINT and the TRA Sandbox

The TRA will enable the live operational testing of operations and technology and will help validate safety risk mitigating evidence and identified standards, and which will enable the CAA to influence regulatory guidelines and acceptable means of compliance (AMC). These can be aligned with other TRA Sandbox users to ensure an increased set of test data and therefore improved validation. In turn, this scales integrated BVLOS sustainability by enabling regulatory guidance through trialling and testing. By flying within a TRA Sandbox, this will help BLUEPRINT to: 

  • trial the airspace that has been developed to determine whether this provides inclusivity to all airspace users 
  • learn from the trial operations and develop effective governance to manage aviation stakeholders  
  • test and trial the detect and avoid solution that has been developed, make observations, and determine lessons learnt 
  • test the integration and success of a UTM minimum viable product 
  • safely integrate two use case drones within an airport environment 

Blueprint for the Future: “Drone Zones” Set to Revolutionise UK Airspace by 2024

Dronecloud are one of the key partners in the UKRI Future Flight Challenge Project BLUEPRINT, delivering Operational Management and UAS Traffic Management services through the Dronecloud Platform.

In a major step towards realising the multi-billion-pound potential of drone technology in the UK, Project BLUEPRINT, a consortium of UK innovators, has unveiled its ambitious plans to integrate drones and crewed aircraft into the same airspace.

Drones have long faced challenges in terms of safety, privacy, and security concerns, resulting in regulators being risk averse in approving their widespread use. However, the UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has been instrumental in bringing drone technology closer to becoming a reality with the introduction of temporary reserved areas (TRAs), or “Drone Zones.”

Traditionally, drones have been restricted to flying in closed-off or ‘segregated’ volumes of airspace to ensure the safety of other airspace users. However, the new policy concept introduced by the CAA and realised through Project BLUEPRINT aims to develop a roadmap for areas of airspace where drones and other aircraft can safely share the skies, paving the way for widespread commercial adoption and exploitation.

Project BLUEPRINT is aligned with the goals of the Future of Flight Industry Group and funded by UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI’s) Future Flight Challenge, a £300 million program aimed at boosting innovations in the UK aviation sector. The consortium consists of over 10 partner companies, including two leading aerospace universities (Cranfield and Southampton), two UAS traffic management providers (Dronecloud and ANRA Technologies), Cranfield Airport, two avionics and platform manufacturers (Distributed Avionics and Sky-Drones), a drone operator (Future Aerial Innovations), and Ebeni, one of the UK’s leading aviation safety consultancies.

Project trials are set to demonstrate how drones and crewed aircraft can safely operate in the same airspace without requiring a drone pilot to spot aircraft. James Dunthorne, project lead and CEO of Neuron Innovations, a low-altitude aircraft tracking company, said, “We are excited to share our consortium plans and strategy with all industry so that these new policy concepts can help us all to prove drones and aircraft can co-exist in the same airspace without adding safety risks.”

The successful implementation of this project will not only enable the UK to roll out commercial drone use cases at scale but also serve as a model for other countries to follow, further solidifying the UK’s position as a leader in regulatory innovation and aviation.

With the launch of this new policy concept, the CAA is developing its understanding of shared airspace.  By working with industry to ensure a safe and scalable approach, it can put the UK in a leading position to be a world leader in drone technology. Projects such as BLUEPRINT offer a way to gather the evidence needed to do this

Representative from the CAA

Project BLUEPRINT is poised to transform the UK’s airspace and revolutionise the way drones are integrated into daily life. By 2024, the UK is expected to witness the widespread national rollout of drone zones, making it an integral part of various industries and applications. The project’s success will serve as a blueprint for other countries to follow and strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in aviation and regulatory innovation.