The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that funding for the Drones Pathfinder Programme will be extended to cover the 2020-21 period. The programme follows a phased approach to achieving routine use of drones within the UK, identifying and overcoming the technical, operational, and commercial barriers for bringing new BVLOS services to the UK.
A new project announced on 12 May 2020 will allow the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to regularly and routinely use drones, to carry out its time critical, reactive search and rescue, and international counter pollution obligations. It aims to explore and develop the safe use of drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) through demonstration of drones such as the Hermes 900 in all classes of airspace.
The MCA will deliver this project by working in partnership with Elbit Systems UK, Inzpire and Aviation Systems Group (ASG) and through close co-operation with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Flight trials of the Hermes 900 are designed to demonstrate the safe use of drones in unsegregated airspace and will be conducted from West Wales Airport in late Summer 2020. The MCA Drone Demonstration and Development Pathfinder seeks to demonstrate the use of Hermes 900 and Skylark I-LEX drones in the agency’s life-saving work and will explore ways to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of staff.
UK Transport Minister Rachael Maclean said: “Going beyond search and rescue, the project will also help teams to quickly spot and tackle pollution, protecting our valuable marine environment. This is an exciting project that is supported by our Drones Pathfinder Programme which we are pleased to be funding into 2020/21.”
The MCA is investing GBP1 million in the project and will combine its experience in managing aviation operations with its expertise in search and rescue and counter pollution to direct the project.
Elbit Systems UK is recognised for its technical and commercial innovation together with its collaborative behaviour with regulators and customers worldwide to achieve clearances for the use of unmanned aviation vehicles of varying size, weight and capability for search and rescue. Together with Inzpire and ASG, they have formed a team with the requisite skills, experience and personnel to achieve the MCA’s principal objective. MCA selected Elbit Systems to participate in demonstration flights in February 2020.
The Drones Pathfinder Programme is managed by the Connected Places Catapult in partnership with the Department of Transport (DfT) and supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the CAA.
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