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Air Navigation Services Provider Services and Airspace Change Process for National Police Air Service UAS Trials

West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Publication date 4 March 2024, 12:33pm
Contract location
UK - United Kingdom
Awarded supplier(s) NATS (Services) Ltd
Total value £449,582

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) were set an objective by the Home Office to review the feasibility of a future ‘blended’ fleet of crewed and uncrewed aircraft which would support policing operations.
NPAS are now in the planning stages of an uncrewed aircraft trial. The trial will be carried out from the NPAS Almondsbury base, in a volume of airspace extending approximately 30 kilometres around the base.
The launch site is located underneath controlled airspace which is part of the Bristol airport airspace system. All air activity here requires oversight by Bristol air traffic control.
NATS is the Air Navigation Services Provider (ANSP) at both Bristol and Cardiff Airports. Under licence from the CAA they provide services to aircraft operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) in controlled airspace (Class A, C, D and E) and in uncontrolled Airspace (Class G) in around the airspace at both Bristol and Cardiff airports. This includes services to commercial aircraft operating in and out of Bristol and Cardiff airports and to General Aviation (GA), Police, HeliMed, Gliders and Balloons operating in the vicinity of those airports. Services are provided by NATS employed Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) at each unit to ensure effective safe and expeditious use of airspace. The trial area is within this airspace.
During the trial, the only organisation that will be able to act as the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) will be NATS as the air traffic control services provider for the trial area.
The ANSP is a critical element. The ANSP provider will manage the airspace where the trial is being undertaken, providing surveillance via radar and other low airspace surveillance tools. They will control which aircraft can enter the airspace and provide deconfliction services to aircraft.
If an aircraft unexpectedly enters the restricted airspace, then the ANSP would be responsible for prompt notification to both the encroaching aircraft and the NPAS uncrewed aircraft pilot, to deconflict and prevent a collision.
NATS also require a partner to manage the Airspace Change Process (ACP) to create a restricted volume of airspace for the trial to operate within.
The ACP is a complex process to establish a volume of airspace which is restricted, so that NPAS can ensure the trial is operating in sterile airspace.
The process requires significant engagement between the regulator (CAA), the ANSP (who is NATS) and local stakeholders.
NATS are already managing other ACP applications which are ongoing in the trial airspace area.
Having NATS coordinate the NPAS ACP process will provide safer and seamless integration with these other ACPs: avoiding the routing of air traffic towards the airspace that NPAS wish to use.
To receive authorisation from the CAA to operate uncrewed aircraft in the restricted volume of airspace, NPAS will need to submit an Operator Safety Case (OSC).
The OSC application is a very thorough process and must meet strict requirements of the CAA. For this initial phase of the overall process, NPAS wish to engage NATS to act as coordinator.
The activities to establish the ANSP, ACP and OSC are significantly intertwined:
• the OSC work requires in depth knowledge of the ANSP and ACP
• the ACP requires in depth knowledge of the ANSP and surveillance data available now and in future.
The data that these processes share is ongoing, as they are all ‘living’ documents that will develop together based on each other’s requirements, regulations, and restrictions.
As the three key elements are so dependent on each other and share common critical data, the safest and most efficient method of work is for one entity to perform all three functions. Splitting the work would create potential for critical information to be omitted or misunderstood or delay the processes due to delays in data gathering and understanding from each party involved

Air Navigation Services Provider Services and Airspace Change Process for National Police Air Service UAS Trials