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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: 30/11/2021
Budget: £1.8m

Above and Beyond trialled using drones instead of helicopters to safely and quickly inspect the overhead electricity network. Current regulations, however, prevent drones from being flown beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS); this project aimed to develop an acceptable means of demonstrating safe BVLOS operations that could be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

This cross-industry project aimed to establish a standard, network-wide framework for drone use aimed to revolutionise the way assets are monitored and maintained. Launched in April 2018, the project was a UK-first and brought together gas and electricity networks, and key industry partners including the Energy Innovation Centre, the Connected Places Catapult, Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Transport.

This project was a research and development project that developed a regularised operating framework specifically for BVLOS linear infrastructure surveys. This involved carrying out flight trials on real network assets. Initial flight trials in segregated airspace were successful. The project generated new research about how trials could approved by the Civil Aviation Authority could take place in the future.

The project had not been tried before due to regulatory constraints. The UK Government, Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have acknowledged that BVLOS drone operations could bring benefits  and originally backed this project as a key ‘Pathfinder’, with the Transport Systems Catapult as the project’s Pathfinder representative.

Since the project started, changes in the CAA mean that some other BVLOS trials have taken place through the UK CAA Innovation Sandbox.

The main learning developed during this project was as follows:

  • Technical learning around what type of technology would be most appropriate for BVLOS flight to support electrical and gas network operations
  • A better understanding of the benefits of using BVLOS drones for network inspection tasks
  • Development of a planning tool to be used by network operators for BVLOS operations

The research also found that future benefits of BVLOS drone flight could include:

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

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