Irrepressible drone services and urban air mobility (UAM) infrastructure company Skyports is on the move yet again, this time tapping England’s Wescott Space Cluster as its European headquarters and center of excellence.
In addition to its work conceiving and constructing next-generation UAM vertiports in countries around the world, London-based Skyports will be operating its global drone service activities from Westcott Space Cluster. The facility is located near Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and hosts a wide range of cutting-edge tech companies and research units, including many active in aerospace and aviation. In basing its European headquarters in the cluster, Skyports says it will tap into assets available there to develop its range and performance of UAV services.
Just as importantly, Skyports will use the Westcott Space Cluster as a command center to remotely operate its global beyond visual line sight (BVLOS) drone flights. That decision comes less than a month after Swoop Aero got the green light from Australian regulators to establish a remote command center at its Melbourne campus for its BVLOS operations around the world.
Though logically rivals in the same sector, Skyports and Swoop Aero have repeatedly partnered up in drone operations, including critical delivery of medical supplies and vaccines in the UK during spikes in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pair are also planning joint UAV transport activities across the European Union, Asia, and the US. Their similar BVLOS developments coming so close to one another may therefore not be entirely coincidental.
In making the move to the Westcott Space Cluster, Skyports is apparently also banking on the view that creating effective worldwide BVLOS networks and running them from central command areas will be sine quo non for future champions in drone delivery activity. That and other UAV services may be better supported in the environment of a techno-pole.
“Drone services have become a core solution for enhancing critical services with more sustainable, cost-effective alternatives,” said head of Skyports’ drone services Alex Brown. “We look forward to moving our operational headquarters to an environment that will foster innovation and research and enable us to demonstrate and extend our capabilities. UK space sector growth is being successfully delivered by space clusters like Westcott, where an eco-system of established companies is working collaboratively to undertake research and development of market-leading technologies and services.”
Given the continuing and in some cases deepening consequence of Brexit, the selection of a UK site like Westcott Space Cluster as Skyports’ European HQ is somewhat counter-intuitive. After all, similar techno-pole options exist on the continent, and would make interfacing with European Union officials and regulators easier.
However, its extensive previous work with the European Space Agency and other administrations while operating its drone services may bridge many of the complications Skyports might have otherwise suffered from Brexit. Meantime, the company’s success last year in obtaining open-ended authority from Irish authorities to operate BVLOS flights there is, under EU rules, applicable across the entire bloc.
Skyports may therefore be positioned to enjoy the advantages of being a UK-based company, and grandfathered EU insider all at the same time.