May's top stories: UK unmanned aircraft in flight, Airbus $8.9bn China order

As BAE Systems' Flying Test Bed became the first unmanned aircraft to take flight in UK-shared airspace, Airbus logged an $8.9bn firm order for 100 single-aisle A320 airliners from Air China and its subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines.


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LaserMotive unveils aircraft system powered by laser over optical fibre

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In May, LaserMotive unveiled the world's first tethered vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which is powered by laser over optical fibre.

InvisiTower is capable of powering any multirotor helicopter using laser power sent through a fibre optic cable, allowing the helicopter to fly as long as power is available on the ground.

The system can be used to support a range of applications in the military and civilian markets, including ISR and situational awareness, communications relay, news and sports reporters, first responders and industrial facility security.

German researchers develop new technology to track flights using satellites

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Researchers at German Aerospace Center, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR), have developed a new receiver and antenna to track aircraft from satellites.

Developed in partnership with the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance in Braunschweig, the new technology will locate the ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast) signals that flights broadcast using a special antenna.

The receiver will be carried onboard the European Proba-V satellite, which is set to liftoff on a Vega launcher, with the primary mission of observing vegetation from space.

Scientists at DLR intend to test during the next two years whether continuous monitoring of aviation routes is possible.

Qatar Airways in talks to acquire 15 Airbus A330 jetliners

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Doha-based carrier Qatar Airways is in talks with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus to purchase up to 15 twin-engine A330 passenger airliners in a deal estimated to be worth approximately $3.6bn.

The airline is considering Airbus aircraft following production delays of 787s and the grounding of its five 787 Dreamliners in January due to battery problems.

The deal is expected to be finalised in June this year during the Paris Airshow.

Qatar Airways is also considering options for the purchase of more four-engine A380 superjumbo airliners.

First pilotless aircraft makes maiden flight in UK airspace

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Also this month, an unmanned BAE Systems Jetstream aircraft known as 'The Flying Test Bed' successfully completed its maiden flight, marking the world's first unmanned flight across the UK-shared airspace.

The aircraft, specially adapted to fly in unmanned mode, took off from Warton in Lancashire and landed in Inverness, Scotland.

BAE Systems noted that this development marked another step forward in the evolution of flight and proves that future technology of this kind could be safe.

The twin-turboprop airliner carried two onboard pilots as a precaution. However, it was under the control of a pilot on the ground at Warton and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) controllers.

Eurocopter opens Systemhaus helicopter development centre in Germany

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Meanwhile in Germany, Eurocopter has officially opened its new Systemhaus helicopter development centre at its Donauwörth site.

The 30,000m² centre provides workspace for approximately 900 employees and offers complete system capability for Eurocopter's production activity.

The Systemhaus building features testing and research facilities, which include simulators, avionics trainers, laboratories, test centres and a prototype shop.

It is also home to the system support centre (SUZ) for the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) helicopter fleet, including the NH90 and CH-53 transport helicopters, and the Tiger attack helicopter.

Airbus wins $8.9bn deal for A320 jetliners from China

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Airbus has logged an $8.9bn firm order for 100 single aisle A320 airliners from two Chinese carriers, Air China and its subsidiary, Shenzhen Airlines.

Air China has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire 60 A320 series jets for $5.37bn, based on list prices, and delivery of the aircraft is expected in stages between 2014 and 2020.

Shenzhen Airlines will purchase 40 A320 series aircraft for $3.4bn, with the delivery of airliners expected in stages between 2016 and 2020.

Both airlines will acquire 40 current engine versions of the A320, as well as 60 more fuel-efficient versions with the A320neo.

Frasca delivers three flight training devices to Southern Illinois University

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Helicopter and fixed-wing simulators manufacturer Frasca International has delivered three new flight training devices (FTDs) - two Cessna 172R FTDs and a CRJ-200 Level 5 FTD - to Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale.

SIU has also upgraded its existing Frasca 172R FTD to have the same features as the two new 172R devices, including G1000, a three-channel projected cylindrical visual display and low-profile instructor cab.

The CRJ-200 Level 5 FTD features a three channel 220°x58° spherical visual display system.

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