The UK’s leading drone operators have called on the Government to change the way uncrewed aviation is regulated, and break down the barriers to uncrewed flight that risk the UK missing out on the ‘drone opportunity’.
The comments come in a new White Paper published by the BVLOS Operations Forum, a consortium of advanced drone and technology companies that are pioneering the use of remotely piloted aircraft ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS).
‘South of the Clouds: A roadmap to the next generation of uncrewed aviation’, sets out the industry’s vision of how new types of aircraft, like drones, can be integrated into the UK’s busy skies, and what steps the Government needs to take to make it happen.
Organisations in the Forum are already using drones to deliver cancer treatments and vital medical supplies to patients in remote areas; in search & rescue operations by HM Coastguard; and for conducting infrastructure inspections and monitoring in a more sustainable, safer way. But because government regulations have evolved more slowly than the technologies in this sector, these types of remotely piloted flights are limited to very restricted areas of airspace, making regular commercial services difficult to deliver. ‘South of the Clouds’ presents a collective industry view of how policymakers could address that problem.
“This White Paper has been co-created by the Forum to outline the imperative of uncrewed flight”, said Russell Porter, Chair of the BVLOS Operations Forum and Head of UTM Stakeholder Engagement at air traffic services company NATS.
“The way forward to achieving routine beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations, integrated with other air traffic, will require significant policy change from both the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority.
“While there have been positive developments, not least i n the Future Flight Challenge and the recently published Airspace Modernisation Strategy, this fast-growing sector is adamant we need to go further, faster, if we are to make uncrewed aircraft a safe and effective option in the aeronautical toolbox.”
Among the policy recommendations is a call for all aircraft to be equipped with ‘electronic conspicuity’ technology to show their location – without this, drones would effectively be flying blind to what’s around them – as well as reform of the regulatory system to enable remotely piloted flights in more areas of airspace, rather than restricted or temporary environments.
Also proposed is a roadmap that sets out a vision for how airspace could be managed for uncrewed aircraft in the future, and the steps required to get there, so that those in the industry can plan and invest accordingly.
“With reduced emissions, reduced cost, and improved safety, uncrewed aircraft can achieve extraordinary things that everyone, in all parts of the UK, will benefit from, and BVLOS is key to unlocking that full potential” said Russell Porter.
“The next generation of aviation is coming, and now is the time to act to make it a reality.”
To read ‘South of the Clouds: A roadmap to the next generation of uncrewed aviation’, visit: https://www.nats.aero/sotc
About the BVLOS Operations Forum
The BVLOS Operations Forum is made up of 15 organisations (listed below), all of whom are involved in developing or operating beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations.
Apian ARPAS-UK Blue Bear BristowCallen Lenz FlylogixMaritime & Coastguard AgencyMinistry of DefenceNATS National Police Air ServiceNational Police Chief’s Council Network Rail Sees.ai SkyportsWindracers
The Forum was established by air traffic control leader, NATS, to bring drone operators together to learn from each other’s operations, collectively advance safety in uncrewed flight, and support policy makers in developing the policies and regulations that the industry needs to grow.
NATS is the UK’s principal air navigation services provider and is split into two main businesses, which provide two distinct services:
NATS (En Route) plc (NERL) — the regulated business, which provides air traffic management services to aircraft within UK airspace and over the eastern part of the North Atlantic; and
NATS (Services) Ltd (NSL) — the unregulated business, which provides air traffic control services at many of the UK’s major airports (13 civil and 7 military airfields) and other airports overseas.
NATS is alive to the opportunities that new airspace users present for airspace in the future and has worked closely with early innovators. Safety is always our number one priority, and we are working with increasing intensity to support the growth of this exciting new industry by safely integrating new users into a sustainable, modernised and fully integrated airspace.
For more information visit the NATS website at www.nats.aero
The rising demand for raw materials, such as rare earth elements and lithium, makes the exploration and extraction of mineral deposits critical. Identification of Earth’s hidden treasures is becoming increasingly difficult, owing to the continued depletion of easily accessible deposits and the social stigma surrounding mining activities. Efficient methods that minimise invasive and costly drilling are key for the discovery of potentially profitable mineral resources. However, a gap in observation scales remains. Traditional ground-based surveys (such as rock and soil sampling), although detailed, can only cover some 15–30 kilometres per day, and large-scale mapping via helicopter, plane and satellite fails to provide sufficient resolution to efficiently map small-scale (<1 km2) geological features.
Drones present the perfect trade-off between coverage and scale of observation, and are essential when ground access is impossible, dangerous or logistically costly. Drones can carry lightweight sensors that, for example, capture changes in the Earth’s magnetic field as well as a continuous spectrum of reflected sunlight in the visible and near-infrared regions (hyperspectral imaging). Subtle variations in the measured properties can be used to determine the abundance and composition of key minerals at Earth’s surface. For example, specific spectral absorption features and magnetic anomalies could indicate the presence of iron alteration related to mineralisation. The hyperspectral and magnetic data collected by the drones can be used alongside high-resolution true-colour cameras or laser-scanning sensors to place mineral deposits into a 3D geographical context. Therefore, economic mineral deposits can be identified down to depths of several hundred meters.
Drones are becoming important tools for mineral exploration by contributing to the safe, efficient and sustainable provision of the high-tech metals that are required by modern society. For example, drone-based hyperspectral imaging has been used to rapidly map rare-earth-element-rich minerals in Namibia. In addition, in Greenland, drone-based magnetic surveys were deployed to identify sub-surface ore potential at a fraction of the cost of traditional surveys. Drones have the potential to provide non-invasive and eco-friendly platforms from which the environmental impact of exploration and mining activities (such as soil erosion, acid mine drainage and vegetation stress) can be assessed.
Author: Robert Jackisch
Updated August 15, 2019
The presence of drones in construction means significant changes within the industry. Drones have already begun changing the way the construction industry operates, and those changes will have continued and lasting effects. Here’s a look at some of the ways drones have already changed the industry and how these trends will impact construction operations in the future.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly replacing traditional land-surveillance methods. They are growing in popularity so rapidly that some have even abandoned the classic “bird's-eye view” expression with “drones eye view.” Drones greatly reduce the labor and time involved in producing accurate surveys. Drones eliminate much of the human error involved in the process and have the ability to capture necessary data in much less time than traditional methods would take.
Improvements to Infrastructure
Drones provide superior endurance and intelligence on job sites. Their ability to collect and report data allows them to complete work faster. The need for manual labor is all but removed from the equation. In the future, drones will take on even more integral tasks involved in large projects. They are poised to cut the time it takes to build a skyscraper by a broad margin, thereby cutting costs. Contractors who rely on drones will be able to make much more ambitious bids and complete work on time.
Communication and Management
Drone technology has evolved to the point where instant connectivity and communication on the job site are at a surplus. Drones are being used more and more as a means of maintaining constant contact at worksites. Drones that feature mounted cameras can provide video footage to facilitate communication and surveillance. They allow companies to keep tabs on employees and workers and are considered an increasingly invaluable tool for superintendents and investors.
Already, communication and management are seeing a sharp increase in efficiency due to the ability to collect real-time data from drones. The decrease in delays in gathering data is having more of an impact each day. The ability to manage workflow 24/7 is unprecedented and is certain to have a significant impact on all manner of construction processes.
Improved Overall Security
The advent of drones is causing a sharp increase in security efficiency. Whether the drones are used to maintain the safety of employees or to protect the job site from theft or vandalism, they are steadily seeing greater implementation in the construction industry.
Drones have the ability to be practically everywhere at the same time. They don't just reduce theft and keep workers safer; they create an around-the-clock, real-time monitoring system that has already been adopted by a number of construction companies. They elevate onsite security and safety by a tremendous margin.
Even though the FAA exacts strict standards on the use of drones, most models used by construction companies come in under the 4.4-pound weight threshold and 400-foot travel radius required to be considered hobby class, as reported by The Washington Post.
Drones that meet those criteria are not subject to stringent regulations. As of right now, they can be flown practically anywhere for any reason. Drones can also safely survey dangerous locations, reducing workplace accidents and increasing job site safety.
Transportation and Inspection
The use of drones in job site inspection also means a drastic increase in worksite safety by eliminating numerous dangers and safety hazards. Using drones to transport goods aerially allows companies to execute difficult inspections and keep track of everything that enters and leaves the job site. It saves money and time and keeps the site secure.
Since drones are generally small with high levels of maneuverability, they are being used more and more as an alternative to traditional vehicles. Even better, drones do not have to adhere to traffic laws, which allows them to make deliveries in a fraction of the time, using half of the resources.
The construction industry is evolving at a rapid rate, and with all the innovations and changes to traditional methods comes the need for greater efficiency in every aspect of your business. As you consider ways to increase the efficiency of workflow, we recommend perusing Capterra’s growing library of construction management software that will help increase productivity and efficiency in your construction business.