Flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) continues to move forward for the global drone industry. In the U.K., drone delivery service provider Skyports will work with regulators to test BVLOS flight in airspace shared by other aircraft.
Skyports is working with onboard detect and avoid technology provided by Iris Automation, which could negate the need for ground-based radar or other obstacle detection systems. The Iris Automation system “sees” obstacles in the air as accurately as a human pilot would. Mission planning, flight management and Remote ID will be provided by Thales’ SOARIZON solution.
BVLOS flight is a critical step before drone delivery can scale in a cost-effective way.
The following is a Skyports press release.
London, United Kingdom (UK), 15 April 2020 – Drone delivery service provider Skyports has announced today that it has been accepted into the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Regulatory Sandbox to trial beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights in non-segregated airspace.
The Regulatory Sandbox is a programme established by the UK CAA to create an environment where innovation in aviation can be explored in line with UK CAA core principles of safety, security and consumer protection.
Skyports, which specialises in operating end-to-end drone deliveries within the medical, e-commerce and logistics sectors, and the UK CAA will explore how regulatory approvals can be granted for drones controlled out-of-sight of the remote pilot to be flown safely within airspace that is shared with other aircraft, which is vital if permanent drone deliveries are to become a reality.
Duncan Walker, Chief Executive Officer at Skyports, said: “Using drone deliveries within supply chains can create significant time and cost savings. The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the role that unmanned aircraft applications can play in keeping the flow of goods moving, especially medical products, limiting human contact and supplying hard-to-reach communities.
A critical step in enabling permanent drone delivery operations is being able to operate out of sight of the remote pilot in airspace used by others. Through this game-changing partnership with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, we will be trialling the integration of our technologically-advanced unmanned aircraft in this shared airspace to demonstrate that our drone deliveries can be operated safely alongside other aircraft.”
Frédéric Laugère, Innovation Services Lead at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Regularly operating unmanned vehicles beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) of their operator is a key requirement to maximise the benefits that they can deliver. We are delighted to start this new collaboration with Skyports and its partners, and working together to explore requirements under which regulatory approval of BVLOS operations could be granted. The public and the industry will undoubtedly benefit from the findings we generate and the insights we gain.”
During the trial, Skyports is working with leading technology partners Iris Automation and Thales, and environmental partners RSK:
- Integrating Iris Automation’s computer-vision-based Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) technology, called Casia, onto unmanned aircraft will enable Skyports’ drones to automatically understand the surrounding skies and independently react as if a pilot were on board to avoid mid-air collisions.
- Thales will help Skyports with mission planning and flight management through its integrated unmanned aircraft system (UAS), SOARIZON, as well as provide cutting-edge, secure remote electronic identification through Thales Remote ID fitted to the drone so the aircraft can be tracked.
- RSK will assist with applying its skills and expertise in environmental assessment, such as noise, air quality and carbon and social impact strategies.
UK CAA Regulatory Sandbox
The Regulatory Sandbox was launched in April 2019 to provide industry with the capability to test and trial innovative aviation solutions in a safe and controlled environment. Skyports joins other aviation innovators in the Sandbox, such as Amazon, Volocopter, Altitude Angel, NATS and sees.ai.
Drone Delivery Demand
Around world drones are already being used to deliver products more quickly, cheaply and efficiently than ground transport alternatives, especially in heavily congested cities and hard-to-reach rural areas. Drone deliveries can reduce costs, improve the frequency and speed of transport, optimise supply chains and improve connectivity to underserved areas.
The drone package delivery market is projected to be worth £21 billion (US$27.4 billion) by 2030. Increasing demand for faster deliveries, changes to the regulations to enable drone deliveries and the proliferation of low-cost and light-payload drones are fuelling the growth of the drone logistics market.
 MarketsandMarkets (2019) Drone Package Delivery Market by Solution (Platform, Duration, Range, Package Side), Region Global Forecast to 2020