UK greenlights drone delivery trials

Drone startup sees.ai will be the first company trialling Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights

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

The startup will be able to fly drones at three nominated sites without needing to pre-authorise each flight. Flights will occur under 150ft and initially require an observer to remain in visual line of sight with the aircraft and able to communicate with the remote pilot if necessary.

The concept is being tested in industrial environments and sees.ai is aiming to prove the safety of its system within this context first, before extending it in the future. This permission is part of a test project to prove the concept ahead of potentially opening it up to the wider market.

“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,” said John McKenna, CEO of sees.ai.

“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.”

The project was delivered as part of the UK CAA Innovation Sandbox, which was set up in May 2019. It seeks to create an environment where innovation in aviation can be explored in line with the CAA core principles of safety, security and consumer protection.

Sees.ai, who has a senior team of former Arup, Apple, Cern, McLaren and hedge fund employees, was one of the first entities selected into the Sandbox in September 2019.

Drone use is becoming more frequent in the UK. In March, it emerged that the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council were deploying a pilot scheme in the summer to make use of drones to tackle litter in its local area. The intelligence gathered from the drone data is set to help dictate the future placement of bins, street cleaning schedules and more.

Plus, in the US, Amazon won approvals from US regulators in September to fly deliveries using drones. Although the company acquired special certification, it said the service was still under development and didn’t say when it intended to start making deliveries.

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