EESA flies again
Tim Squires
Tim Squires Technical Architect

EE Life Tue 17th April, 2018

EESA flies again

It’s been some time since we updated you on our EESA project – Equal Experts Space Agency. To recap, this side project is an ambitious attempt to make the world’s highest horizontal flight using an unmanned vehicle.
Why? Well, not only is it a lot of fun, it’s the perfect match for our ‘test and learn’ mindset. You can read more about the project and see our progress on our dedicated EESA page.

What’s new?

We last shared our status at the end of the summer. Unfortunately, progress has been slow since, for the following reasons:
British weather 
It turns out there’s a reason NASA launches take place in Florida. We’ve had very few suitable testing days over winter, with a lot of high winds. And when the wind has been suitable, the rain and snow seems to have taken its place. As our tests require long flight times, we just haven’t had suitable opportunities to get out there and do them.
Scotland
EESA activities take place in Yorkshire, where I’ve been working with EE – until recently. My current client engagement has seen me relocating to Edinburgh during the week. In Yorkshire I’m lucky enough to be able to fly out on the moor, right by my house; not the case in Edinburgh, though I have managed to find two suitable testing spots outside the city.
The Civil Aviation Authority
This is the big obstacle – we had some bad news back in December. After lots of hopeful communications over nine months, the CAA officially said no to our application for the attempt. Their reasoning is that our mission is more of a UAV flight than a weather balloon. If the plane was to come back to Earth under a parachute and not under power, then they would grant us an exception.

It’s not all bad news

The assessment from the CAA was a disappointment, but there are still options open to us.
We could:
  • Apply for a BVLOS exemption (Beyond Visual Line Of Site). This is quite expensive and long winded process, but is our best chance of flying in the UK.
  • Apply to other countries. Some countries are more open to off-the-wall applications such as ours. So far we’ve approached Iceland, Spain and Australia, and Canada and Poland are other countries we could speak to.
 The Scouting Association has given us permission (and insurance) to fly from, over and to any of their property worldwide, too (we’re working with a local Scouts group as part of this project).
Overall then, minimal progress over the winter, but setbacks in a project of this complexity are inevitable. And I feel that with the longer evenings and recent permission to fly around Edinburgh, EESA is set to take off again soon…