Drone technology set to go above and beyond

Drone technology developer sees.ai has become the first company in the UK to secure authorisation from the UK Civil Aviation Authority to trial a concept for routine Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations.

The permissions come as part of a test project to prove the concept and enables sees.ai to fly BVLOS at three nominated sites without needing to pre-authorise each flight.

The company said that by removing this limitation, this permission fires the starting gun for the next phase of growth of the drone industry, during which the potential of BVLOS to significantly increase operational effectiveness and efficiency will be considered.

The authorisation allows BVLOS flights to occur under 150ft and initially requires an observer to remain in visual line of sight with the aircraft and able to communicate with the remote pilot if necessary.

The sees.ai control room

John McKenna, CEO at sees.ai said: ‘We are accelerating towards a future where drones fly autonomously at scale – high up alongside manned aviation and low down inside our industrial sites, suburbs and cities. Securing this UK-first permission is a major step on this journey which will deliver big benefits to society across public health & safety, efficiency and environmental impact.

‘We are hugely grateful to the CAA’s innovation & regulatory teams for their support and guidance in helping us reach this significant milestone and we look forward to working with them as we continue to advance what’s safe and possible.’

The firm said innovators and the CAA continue to work on new technologies such as automatic detect and avoid systems. Data gathered from the test flights will be used to consider whether the risk and hazard assessments can be used to cover generic risks beyond the three trial sites.

The development was delivered under guidance from the CAA Innovation Sandbox, which was set up in May 2019 to create an environment where innovation in aviation can be explored in line with CAA core principles of safety, security and consumer protection.

David Tait, head of innovation at the CAA, said: ‘Our innovation team was set up to meet the rapid pace of technological advances in the UK, so to see businesses like sees.ai thriving and creating world-leading solutions that will benefit infrastructure and markets is really exciting.

‘We are proud to have played our part in sustaining the UK’s position as one of the greatest locations in the world for innovative companies.’

He added: ‘Unless they have specific permissions, all other drone operators must keep their aircraft within line of sight and follow the drone code.’

The CAA has published a roadmap of how the sector can get to routine BVLOS flying on its website:

You can read more about the use of drones and BVLOS in the December issue of Highways magazine.

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