UK Civil Aviation Authority selects six innovators for Innovation Sandbox

Innovation SandboxImage: CAA announces first six participants of Innovation Sandbox. Photo: courtesy of Dan Taylor from London, UK/

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has disclosed names of the first six participants of the Innovation Sandbox, a new virtual space for safely testing new technology.

Innovation Sandbox will provide innovative firms the opportunity to discuss, explore, trial and evaluate emerging concepts.

The innovation programme has been launched by the new UK CAA innovation team and is funded initially by a grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The participants are Altitude Angel, Amazon, NATS and Searidge Technologies, NBEC Consortium, Nesta Challenges and Volocopter.

Altitude Angel is working on delivering solutions to facilitate the safe integration and usage of automated drones into airspace. Its airspace management platform, called GuardianUTM O/S, has been designed to deliver software foundations for safely unlocking the potential of the unmanned aerial vehicles.

Amazon is another participating innovator which is developing a future delivery system using unmanned aerial vehicles that are designed to get packages to customers safely within 30 minutes.

Air traffic control body NATS and Searidge Technologies, its digital tower partner, are trying to implement new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digital air traffic control towers.

The NBEC Consortium, made up of Cranfield University and its partners, Blue Bear Systems Research, Thales and Vodafone, is developing an experimentation corridor that will allow drones and unmanned aircraft fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) through tracking of their locations to help them fly safely in the same airspace used by manned aircraft.

While Nesta Challenges is working on shaping the future of the roles of urban drones in the UK, Volocopter is developing electrically powered urban air taxis (eVTOLs) that can help modern cities address their increasing mobility problems.

The six innovators will get close support from the CAA innovation team in order to understand how they can comply with regulatory requirements. According to the CAA, this will eventually be one of the elements the innovators would require in order to launch their new aviation and travel products and services to the public.

UK Civil Aviation Authority director Tim Johnson said: “The UK is a global leader for aviation innovation and we are excited to be playing our role to support this.

“Public safety remains our number one priority, and our Innovation Sandbox will allow for the creation of world-first technologies, tried and tested in a safe environment.”

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