HC 772 Defence CommitteeWritten evidence from ADS

About ADS

ADS is the trade organisation representing the UK aerospace, defence, security and space industries. Farnborough International Limited (FIL), which runs the Farnborough International Airshow, is a wholly-owned subsidiary. ADS has offices in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and India. ADS comprises over 900 member companies within the industries it represents, of which over 850 are small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Together with its regional partners, ADS represents over 2,600 companies across the UK supply chain.

ADS also supports the Aerospace Growth Partnership, SC21, Sustainable Aviation, Defence Industries Council, RISC and hosts the Aerospace & Defence Knowledge Transfer Network.

Background to the ADS Sectors

The UK aerospace sector contributes over £23 billion to the UK economy, is the largest aerospace sector in Europe and the second largest globally after the USA. The sector directly employs nearly 100,000 people spending more than 8% of turnover (£2 billion) in R&D in 2010.

The defence industry employs over 300,000 people in the UK—directly and through the supply chain. The industry invested £1.5 billion of annual sales revenue in R&D in 2011, 7% of annual turnover—amongst the highest in industrial sectors.

The UK security industry exported £2.6 billion in 2011 in an estimated £62 billion. export market, representing a 4% market share.

The UK space industry turns over £9 billion each year and is predicted to grow 7.5% each year. Internal R&D funding has risen from 55% (2008–09) to 72% (2010–11) in the more significant upstream sector, which is also more R&D intensive than Aerospace.


ADS welcomes the Defence Committee’s inquiry into this important area of technology. A recent study by the US analysts, Teal Group estimated the worldwide market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to be £8.35 billion by 2018. The UK is well positioned to exploit this huge area of growth, particularly through the ASTRAEA programme (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment), made up of seven leading UK-based companies in the sector.

There are three keys areas to the ADS response to the Committee’s inquiry:

1.Current utility and dispersal of Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS):

Surveillance—providing an effective mechanism for both military and civilian application.

Armed—systems with missiles for the operator to react to a potential threat.

2.Tomorrow’s potential:

Operational capabilities—technological developments increasing RPAS effectiveness.

Increased domestic use—sectors to benefit from the use of RPAS following changes in regulations.

3.Technology and Innovation:

Taking a systems based approach to the technology.

1. Current utility and dispersal

1.1 Surveillance RPAS

1.1.1 The vast majority of civilian and military RPAS are used for surveillance. Whether controlled from a long-range base thousands of miles away or launched and operated via a handheld monitor, merely hundreds of metres away, the capability to use live feeds from cameras attached to RPAS to monitor the landscape below, is the largest application of remotely piloted technology in both a military and civilian environment.

1.1.2 On military operations, RPAS can be used in situations too dangerous, remote or uncertain for soldiers themselves to enter or to provide live surveillance footage of an area soldiers may be about to enter, reducing the potential threat and providing a greater understanding of the surroundings and situation. The British Army’s has, for example, used surveillance RPAS in Afghanistan to check for signs of roadside bombs ahead of convoys.

1.1.3 Domestically, RPAS enable surveillance by the Police and response services at large scale events. In these situations they provide a bird-eye view of the situation that is cheaper and can stay in the air longer than traditional airborne surveillance equipment such as helicopters, allowing their direct deployment to situations as necessary.

1.2 Armed RPAS

1.2.1 Missiles attached to long-range RPAS enable both surveillance of a target and a potential missile strike in an area where a fighter jet or helicopter may not be a viable option. Armed systems make up a small proportion of RPAS used by militaries world-wide. The length of time and variable speed at which they can travel in order to monitor a situation or target, can make them a more effective choice of weapon in certain situations.

2. Tomorrow’s potential

2.1 Operational Capabilities

2.1.1 Technological improvements in the development of RPAS are likely to see a number of increased operational capabilities in systems for use in both civilian and military environments over the coming decade:

A greater level of autonomy of systems to reduce the support and control overhead, thereby reducing data flow requirements.

Greater lift and weight support, enabling the increased use of RPAS in logistics and in autonomous lift in theatre.

Improved data-links to manage the data flow, enabling a greater level of data to flow back to users.

Faster data-analytics for the vast amount of sensor information to allow near real time operational knowledge to flow back to decision makers.

More robust data protection and cyber security of information and communications lines.

Next generation electric-hybrid power technologies, creating more environmentally friendly systems.

Miniaturisation of technologies to allow close-quarter use of RPAS.

2.1.2 These capabilities will increase the scope for application of RPAS by the military, as systems become more cost-effective to run and resistant to electronic attack.

2.2 Increased domestic use

2.2.1 The current regulations on RPAS in UK airspace are preventing use to their full potential. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidelines, CAP-722, on the uses of RPAS, do not as it stands recognise RPAS in the same context as conventional aircraft, and therefore limit their current uses substantially. ASTRAEA is working to understand and agree with the CAA the route to product certification and changes to CAP-722, regarding the safety requirements RPAS must operate under are due to come into effect towards the end of the decade. These reforms have the potential, if implemented effectively, to enable the greater domestic use of RPAS in:

Security, through the increased use of airborne surveillance systems at events and dangerous situations.

Search and Rescue; to eventually replace manned services where more efficient.

Agriculture; the monitoring of crops.

Telecommunications; creating temporary communications links in emergency situations or at every day events.

Conservation, to track endangered species and changes to wildlife habitats. Early developments have been made in this area through the use of RPAS to track endangered species in the Gobi Desert.

Energy; the monitoring of overhead power-lines and Nuclear PowerStation construction.

Construction; to inform architects and project managers of progress and for the lifting of materials

Logistics; for movement and delivery.

3. Technology and Innovation

3.1 When considering the future uses of RPAS, it is important to consider the technology and its implications at a systems level rather than the end result alone. Historically, technologies developed for the defence and security services have been used in other sectors to improve everyday civilian technology.

3.2 The ASTRAEA programme has developed decision support technology initially intended for the unmanned domain that can be re-introduced back into the manned domain to make pilots even better aware of their situation and flight status. Such technologies will have spin-off potential into other sectors including transport, automotive and health.

Similarly, sensor and communications technology in development for RPAS will have a number of civilian uses that have the potential to greatly improve everyday services, for example in the telecommunications and health sectors. Inclusion in medical equipment, both in and outside the body, is likely to benefit doctors monitoring the real-time health of patients in person, or at a distance.

September 2013

Prepared 24th March 2014