British SME’s, Britten-Norman and Blue Bear have announced that they will partner to make autonomous flight a reality by the mid 2020s.

    Starting in October 2020, Blue Bear and Britten-Norman will work together to automate the operation of a Britten-Norman Islander.

    The project’s first milestone will be to demonstrate single pilot operations with an autonomous co-pilot providing flight assistance. This is expected to enter service in the mid 2020s and would present a significant efficiency increase and cost saving for regional air operators.

    Britten-Norman, CEO, William Hynett, said: “We have become used to the ‘car of the future’ incorporating green and autonomous technology, the future of aviation will undergo a similar revolution. Blue Bear is the leading light when it comes to air autonomy technology, it is an absolute privilege to be partnering on this project.

    “The whole Britten-Norman team is very excited. Blue Bear and Britten-Norman share the same values and an ethos of passion for innovation. We are proud to be British SMEs partnering to build the future of British aviation. I look forward to our companies achieving great developments together.”

    The companies say that critical to the UK’s levelling up agenda will be improving transport links between the UK’s regions and cities. Currently regional air transport is underdeveloped and often forced to rely on subsidy. This is because regional air transport can struggle to be economically sustainable due to high operating and maintenance costs. Regional air transport will have to incorporate zero carbon and autonomous technology to make operations affordable and scalable. Utilising these technologies could make air transport faster, greener and easier than road and rail journeys by the 2030s.

    Blue Bear, CEO, Dr Yoge Patel, added: “Blue Bear are absolutely delighted to be working with Britten-Norman, whose talent for rapidly turning new challenges into solutions for their customers is remarkable.

    “We have found a kindred spirit, in so many aspects, with whom the next era of aviation can be genuinely realised. It’s a perfect match. Two agile SMEs with their own dedicated systems integration and flight test facilities can de-risk and flight prove innovations at an unprecedented pace”.