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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

UK Power Networks spends almost £1m per year on flying helicopters to inspect the overhead network. Drones are cheaper to run, however current regulation prevents them from being flown beyond the visual line of sight. This project aims develop an acceptable means of demonstrating save BVLOS operations that can be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

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.

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