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Amazon are well advanced with their drones


First aid - one of the many coming uses


REMOTE DRONE OPERATIONS – SEES.AI TESTING The ability to use drones to inspect infrastructure is obvious. When you then tie that to infrastructure in remote or difficult to reach situations it becomes even more compelling.


The premise of the work being undertaken by sees.ai is to allow inspection drones to be remotely controlled by a central location. That means operating the drone beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. An example could be using a drone to inspect an oil rig after a storm.


Photo drones are getting larger O 14


ne of the often-quoted benefits of wider adoption of electronic conspicuity is allowing more users to access airspace. Primarily


that means commercial drone users. But what difference would it make to them and how would it be delivered? Apart from a few trials and very controlled situations pretty much all drone flying requires the operator to be able to see their craft all of the time so that they are able to spot, and then avoid, any other air traffic. In most uncontrolled airspace drones have as equal right to access as any other aircraft but, in reality, drone users are much more likely to see an aircraft before its pilot spots the drone. Being required to keep their drone in sight is no big deal for many drone users and doesn’t really stop them from doing any flying they want to. But, for many of the commercial and public service opportunities that drones are now starting to offer, it certainly does. Take, for example, the undeniable benefits of using a drone as part of a search and rescue operation; delivering a defibrillator to a heart attack victim


in a remote village; inspecting remote infrastructure such as overhead power lines, wind farms and oil rigs and, of course, the more commercial applications like deliveries. Some use of what’s known as ‘extended visual line of sight’, where spotters are deployed along the drone’s route to report back to the pilot is allowed, and in other cases areas of airspace can be shut to other users, but that can’t be a long-term solution.


So, for most uses to be effective all of these really need the drone to be operated outside the user’s human visibility so- called Beyond Visual Line of Sight. That obviously requires some other way to be able to avoid conflict.


Even the average enthusiast drone costing well under £1,000 comes fitted with technology that’s pretty rare in the average GA aircraft. That includes GPS navigation and automatic prevention of entering airspace that the drone doesn’t have permission to use, auto stabilisation, emergency auto return to home, simple collision avoidance and, in newer drones, electronic devices.


Large certificated drones are already


At the moment to achieve that a suitably approved operator would need to be on the rig permanently or flown in. With the sees.ai proposal and BVLOS flying being permitted, then a drone based on the rig permanently could be flown at any time by an operator many hundreds of miles away. By using virtual reality, the drone operator is placed in a 3D version of the drone’s real environment allowing them to fly precisely, even close to obstacles.


“Enabling everyday drone flying beyond visual line of sight is a game changer, providing the opportunity for unmanned vehicles to monitor critical infrastructure, make deliveries and support our daily lives in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.” - David Tait, Acting Head of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Innovation Team.


FUTURE VISION


Photos: Shutterstock


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