Thales and Vodafone have confirmed they have joined the National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC).
Becoming the third and fourth companies in the partnership, they join alongside founding partners Cranfield University and Blue Bear Research Systems.
The NBEC says the addition of the two global firms is a significant boost in its capabilities as it continues to develop.
The project is closely aligned to the Aerospace Sector Deal, a government initiative to drive industry collaboration to support the future of mobility in the British economy.
It will examine the real-world impact of digital transformation to jointly develop and exploit innovations within and between digitised airline operations, aircraft, airspace management and airports that are already in use.
The NBEC flight corridor will be used to demonstrate how 4G and 5G mobile technology can be used to identify and track the location of a drone in real time, a move which they feel is vital to ensure that autonomous BVLOS flights are safe.
Steve Murray, vice president for strategy & marketing at Thales UK, said: “Our solutions will help to build the foundations for an entirely new air transport system, based on clean, electric and hybrid air vehicles.
“For example, this will enable the routine, safe and secure use of drones for infrastructure surveillance and inspection, logistics delivery services and a future in which urban air mobility is a reality. Digital Trust is at the core of all we do and our role in the project will contribute significantly in the areas of cyber security and the concept of centralised management for drone operations and UAV traffic management to ensure the safety and security of the airspace.”
Blue Bear and Cranfield recently completed the first test flights to establish the principles for the National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) at Cranfield Airport.
Anne Sheehan, director for Vodafone Business UK, added: “Drones offer exciting opportunities for the future and will ultimately bring benefits to society and the economy. However, we need to make sure they are used safely and responsibly. We are delighted to bring our mobile connectivity expertise to the NBEC consortium so that drone technology can be further tested and developed.”
The companies involved say the ultimate aim is to see the corridor eventually stretch across Bedfordshire from Blue Bear’s headquarters in Oakley to Cranfield University’s airport.