UAV thought leader Gemma Alcock is best known for her work with Skybound Rescuer, a leading European resource for using drones in public safety applications. Alcock has been a major voice in the Drones for Good movement, expanding the use of drone technology in search and rescue to incorporate the newest available solutions and best practices.
Alcock is also the Director of Air Operations at Lowland Rescue, a non-profit organization devoted to using new technologies and search methods to find missing people faster and ultimately save more lives. With drones becoming an increasingly important tool for search and rescue operations, Lowland Rescue has now added David Walters to the aerial assets team, in a new role as Head of Drone Regulations.
The move is significant for the drone industry, as it cements the place of drones in rescue work – and recognizes the importance of safety and regulations in drone operations.
“Lowland Rescue drone pilots are 100% volunteers, and are often trained in many other SAR disciplines too – the role of drone pilot is not their only role within Lowland Rescue. This coupled with the frequent changes in air law makes it a constant challenge for Lowland Rescue’s volunteer drone pilots to remain safe and legal,” says Alcock. “It’s challenge that they have risen to time and time again, but to ease this challenge moving forward and to further enable Lowland Rescue’s lifesaving drone operations, an industry-leading expert in air law and safety management, David Walters, has joined the team to ensure Lowland Rescue remains ahead.”
Walters is Head of Strategic Programmes at leading UTM provider Altitude Angel – and an expert at working with airspace regulations. Currently, he leads the work conducted in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Innovation Sandbox, while also managing opportunities such as the Government-funded Future Flight call. He sits on the CAA UAS Stakeholder Working Group, and has recently joined the CAA Electronic Conspicuity Working Group.
“As a drone operations professional with specialist knowledge of a wide range of industry applications, David is a visionary, innovative thinker and industry leader with almost a decade of experience in technical drone operations and management. David has conducted and managed complex operations from EVLOS (extended visual line of sight) flights to semi-autonomous BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flights – put simply, flights that are at significant distance from the pilot to increase the operational range of the drone. Some activities have also involved the co-ordination of manned and unmanned joint operations,” says a Lowland Rescue press release.
“Back in 2013, I was approached by Lowland Rescue’s Neil Balderson and David McBurnie, both local to me in Northamptonshire to demonstrate my current operational skills, and also the capabilities of systems at the time,” says Walters. “Drone technology has come such a long way since then, but the principles of operation have not changed. Safety is always the primary factor in all activities, as is complying with the Air Navigation Order.”
“I’m an active, passionate member of the industry, and being able to bring my skills and expertise to Lowland Rescue and support their operations is fantastic. Gemma Alcock has already begun some fantastic work here in standardising operational workflows, and I am excited to be able to support and unlock the potential of drone operations for Lowland Rescue.”
“I invited David to join the Lowland Rescue Air Operations Department because of his industry-leading knowledge of air law and safety management, and because of his longstanding relationship with the CAA,” says Alcock. “David will play an integral role towards ensuring Lowland Rescue drone operations become world class.”