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Efficient and Effective

Above and Beyond

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones.

Enabling drones to fly beyond the visual line of sight for asset inspection.

Project-on-a-Page summary

Project data

Start date: 02/01/2018
End date: 04/01/2021
Budget: £1.8m

We currently spend up to about £1m per year flying helicopters in order to safely and quickly inspect the overhead network. Above and Beyond will trial using drones instead – equating to substantial cost and carbon savings, while increasing safety for our pilots.  Current regulations, however, prevent drones from being flown beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS); this project aims develop an acceptable means of demonstrating safe BVLOS operations that can be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The cross-industry project to establish a standard, network-wide framework for drone use that could revolutionise the way assets are monitored and maintained. Launched in April 2018, the project is a UK-first and brings together gas and electricity networks, and key industry partners including the Energy Innovation Centre, the Transport Systems Catapult, Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Transport.

 

This project is a research and development project that will develop a regularised operating framework specifically for BVLOS linear infrastructure surveys. The will involve hundreds of flight trials on real network assets to prove safety cases developed for the CONOPS that relate to network inspection tasks. At the end of the project it is hoped that the BVLOS capability will cover a significant proportion of the energy networks assets.

The project has not been tried before due to regulatory constraints. The UK Government, Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority have acknowledged recently that BVLOS drone operations must be accommodated and have backed this project as a key ‘Pathfinder’, with the Transport Systems Catapult as the project’s Pathfinder representative.

The main learning expected to be developed during this project is as follows:

  • Develop the knowledge on how to fulfil safety cases approved by the CAA that permit the flying of BVLOS drones to carry out network inspection tasks.
  • A better understanding of the benefits of using BVLOS drones for network inspection tasks
  • With the project enabling BVLOS drone operations in normal airspace, it has direct relevance and applicability to other sectors and countries when framework details are shared.

Future benefits of the project include:

  • Improved Safety
  • Reduced Environmental Impact
  • Reduced Cost
  • Improved Data Quality
  • Automated Fault Detection

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