The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has authorised the first trial project to prove the concept of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations before opening it up to the wider UAV market.
BVLOS command and control solution developer sees.ai is the first company to secure authorisation to conduct the trial, which could have huge implications on drone deliveries and the logistics sector.
The authorisation enables sees.ai to fly BVLOS at three nominated sites without needing to pre-authorise each flight. Currently however, unless they have specific permissions, all other drone operators must keep their aircraft within line of sight and follow the drone code.
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. By testing the concept in industrial environments for inspection, monitoring and maintenance purposes, sees.ai aims to prove the safety of its system within this context initially, before extending it to address increasingly challenging missions over time.
Innovators and the CAA continue to work on solutions to further the safety of future missions through new technologies such as automatic detect and avoid systems. Data gathered from these test flights will be used to consider the success of the operations and whether the risk and hazard assessments can be used to cover generic risks beyond the three trial sites.
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 and safety, efficiency and environmental impact.
“We are hugely grateful to the CAA’s innovation and 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.”
David Tait, Head of Innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, 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.
Rohit Gupta, Head of Products and Resources, Europe, Cognizant, said: “The Civil Aviation Authority’s green-lighting of this trial scheme for remote drone piloting has enormously positive potential for the use of the technology. Though the conversation inevitably gravitates towards the possibilities for drones to carry groceries – despite only 23% of UK adults supporting deliveries by drone because of the risks associated with it – the real impact drones will have on our world is likely to be found elsewhere.
“Drones have huge potential for businesses across many industries, including retail, logistics and healthcare. Among the many societal benefits they can offer are reducing crime and saving lives through their wide and fast surveillance abilities.
“Until now, in the UK, we have been limited by line-of-sight regulations. Loosening these restrictions, even on a trial basis, could in turn allow for emergency long-range surveillance to support police enquiries and catch criminals, remote delivery of crucial medicine and more efficient and sustainable farming techniques.
“These benefits are driven by the technology’s capacity to capture data from its surroundings and to process this to inform actions and the application of AI to these data streams will only improve the value of drones.
“The sci-fi film imagery of our skies buzzing with drones will still remain a fantasy but this trial marks a significant step in the right direction for drone technology to play a vital role both now and in the years to come.”