A group of aviation and drone sector companies in the UK are banding together to work toward increased use cases and frequency of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights across the nation, and propose policies to regulators permitting wider deployment of those missions.
As is the case in most countries, operators wanting to fly BVLOS drone missions in the UK must first obtain a waiver from national regulator Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which designates the location and purpose of authorized sorties. But companies that have formed the BVLOS Operations Forum say they and other fast developing UAV actors have already maxed out the potentials that exceptional flight restraints allow, and want to move to develop the activity as a routine business mode without all the confining red tape.
To eliminate that, participating organizations are coming together to share their experience and ideas about expanded and diversified BVLOS drone flights in the UK. They’ll similarly propose operational and technology means to regulators that may be used to reduce – and eventually end – current restrictions.
Initial members of the BVLOS Operations Forum include ARPAS UK, Blue Bear, Callen Lenz, Flylogix, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Network Rail, Skyports, and Windracers, all of which are involved in developing beyond visual line of sight drone flights – some as commercial operators.
The UK’s NATS air traffic control provider was a main driver in forming the group, which also includes sees.ai, a drone services tech provider that was authorized by the CAA in June to test its concept for routine BVLOS operation.
“The BVLOS Operations Forum has given those seeking to operate uncrewed aircraft beyond visual line of sight a platform to work together, and a means for driving change and establishing a safe and workable regulatory regime that will benefit the industry as a whole,” said Russell Porter, head of NATS’s UAV air traffic program and chair of the Forum.
In addition to developing ways BVLOS flights can be deployed in regular, safe conditions, members of the collective will also propose policy changes to regulators aiming to unleash what they call the enormous economic potentials that remote drone operations could afford the UK. Their goal is to obtain the same sort of collective influence that traditional aviation companies wielded as air transport spread in past decades.
“This method of working together has been used by traditional airspace operators for many years and has contributed to the robust safety culture that exists today,” said Porter. “By uniting uncrewed operators with extensive experience and equally extensive ambition we can develop a similarly robust safety culture, and collectively plot a course toward safely integrated BVLOS operations.”