A future of sophisticated everyday drone flights is one step closer, as Vodafone UK’s mobile network lends a helping hand.
Drone tech company sees.ai has reached a new milestone in its quest to make autonomous drone flights in the same airspace as other aircraft an everyday reality.
It is the first company in the UK given permission by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly drones routinely without the drone operator having to maintain direct line-of-sight at all times.
Thanks to the flexibility granted by this milestone, sees.ai will able to make such drone flights – known as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations – at three nominated sites within the UK, and as long as they fly below 150ft.
Sees.ai is using BVLOS flights to test how drones can be safely used to inspect, monitor and maintain equipment and buildings in industrial environments from a remote control centre.
Once BVLOS drone flights have proven themselves here, sees.ai plans to grapple with other, more challenging missions over time. Sees.ai drones use Vodafone UK’s network signal as one of many methods to help navigate their surroundings.
BVLOS flights are critical to the future usefulness of drones. Being able to fly drones remotely from a control centre isn’t just more efficient in terms of time and manpower, it also enables the use of drones in hazardous situations, such as emergencies and disaster zones.
When drones fly autonomously, they can continue operating safely and effectively even if there’s a momentary drop in their connection with the operator.
Vodafone isn’t just a technical partner to sees.ai – it’s also a customer. Specially-equipped sees.ai drones have flown autonomously around a network mast, mapping its use of the radio spectrum.
John McKenna, CEO, 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.”
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