(Image source: Airbus)

New Zealand will become a testbed for Airbus unmanned aircraft and space technology

Airbus has entered into an agreement with New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to develop capability in the country’s emerging unmanned aircraft (UA) and space data technology sectors. The letter of intent sets out a commitment by Toulouse, France-based Airbus to seek opportunities for testing and trialing its UA technologies in New Zealand and to work together to support the development and adoption of new and innovative space data technologies and applications.

The agreement was facilitated by MBIE’s Innovative Partnerships program which was established to help research and development (R&D) intensive businesses connect, collaborate, and innovate in New Zealand.

Research, Science, and Innovation Minister Megan Woods welcomes the agreement.

“Airbus has committed to collaborate on innovation challenges that combine UA and space data technologies. These challenges will generate solutions for real problems, catalyze innovation, and increase our R&D capabilities in UAs and space data technologies and applications,” says Minister Woods. “Airbus is already building strong connections within our innovation and space ecosystems, including a recent agreement that establishes the Centre of Space Science Technology in Alexandra as the primary provider of Airbus satellite data and products in New Zealand.”

Airbus’s current public-private partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the SpaceDataHighway represents a step change in the speed of ultra-broadband lasers communications. Current SpaceDataHighway data speeds are around 1.8 gigabytes per second – up to 40 terabytes per day – between Earth observation satellites, airborne platforms, and the International Space Station (ISS).

The company also recently wrapped up an advanced drone swarm technology demonstration over the Baltic Sea. Airbus’ swarm of unmanned Do-DT25 aircraft provided situational awareness to a manned aircraft while leveraging automatic guidance, navigation, and control.

“Attracting R&D investment and activity in areas like new space and advanced aviation technologies are key priorities for Innovative Partnerships as there is huge potential for New Zealand to be at the forefront of these rapidly developing sectors,” continues Woods.

Earlier this month, Zephyr Airworks credited the Innovative Partnerships program as part of the reason they are collaborating with Air New Zealand to deploy autonomous, all-electric Cora air taxis in the country.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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