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