Boeing-backed autonomous flight technology developer sees.ai has secured routine permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in non-segregated airspace, on the high voltage electricity transmission network.
This permission builds on the BVLOS permission that sees.ai received in April 2021 which allowed the company to remotely operate drones in non-segregated airspace over industrial sites. This new permission now allows routine BVLOS flights on two specific runs of National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) live overhead power lines – an interim step that will allow sees.ai to demonstrate the safety of extending this permission to NGET’s critical national infrastructure.
This permission means sees.ai is now one of only a handful of companies worldwide with routine permission to inspect the grid from BVLOS. Sees.ai’s core tech enables drones to be flown meters from steelwork and components from BVLOS to capture a structured, internally georeferenced data set of 2D images and 3D models optimised for automated analysis using AI, says the company press release.
This permission achieves an important milestone in the development of an end-to-end automated inspection analysis and reporting solution for electricity grids – a project that sees.ai and NGET’s data analysis supplier, Keen AI, have been working on with NGET since mid-2021. The aim of this project is to enable NGETs in-house team to carry out close aerial inspection of overhead lines from BVLOS using sees.ai’s core tech; and then to use Keen AI’s software for condition assessment, defect resolution and reporting. This project will enable NGET (and other grid operators in time) to more efficiently and effectively determine asset conditions and develop optimal maintenance plans.
In order to ensure the safe development and deployment of their core tech, sees.ai has been working closely with the CAA Regulatory Sandbox team since 2019. Recently the company has made progress towards licensing its core-tech via this project with National Grid and a second with Marshall Futureworx; and via two UK Government Future Flight Challenge projects, in which sees.ai led consortia that included partners National Grid, BT and Network Rail.
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