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Takeaways from Transport Systems Catapult SME Day on Drones Solutions & Opportunities held 6th March

First thank you to the Transport Systems Catapult for organising a very instructive day around “Drones: Solutions and Opportunities for the UK Transport Industry”, gathering a panel of high level speakers and industry stakeholders and offering many opportunities for discussions and networking.

A couple of takeaways:

  • The Gatwick incidents last December have left their marks. Key actions include the extension of the no-fly zone limits around aerodromes to 5km, effective this Wednesday March 13th. A drone bill is expected by the end of the year that would grant additional powers to the police forces, for example to request evidence from drone users when there is reasonable suspicion of an offence being committed and to issue fixed penalty notices. Communication will also be adjusted to ensure that both aspects of drones are clearly understood by the public. On one hand, safe use of drones offer unique opportunities for growth to the UK economy as outlined by the PWC report. On the other hand, misuse of drones may break the law and subject to penalty or more.

  • Much more positively inspiring was how Lancashire Fire & Rescue teams, represented by Tim Murrell, use drones on a very regular basis and how their return of experience could help improving solutions and services by resolving the technological gaps they have already identified.

  • Approach to Urban Air Mobility, in the sense of electric drone vehicles, is getting structured. This is in line with the CAA’s announcement in December of its intention to set up a new innovation team and help the UK be at the forefront of urban air mobility. ADS, the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space trade association represented by Martin Phillips, has set-up a dedicated group among its members and they will be organising a Global Air Summit in September. I have to admit that I have little sympathy for the use case where the busy wealthy few can avoid congestion and quickly go home by flying taxis. On the other hand, coming from a region where road and rail transport are not satisfactory and form an obvious stumbling block to economic growth, I do have sympathy for the use case where poorly connected places suddenly get connected by air without major ground infrastructure works.

  • The Future of Flight Challenge is expected for autumn and will focus on 5 subjects: system of systems architecture; new models of airspace management ie UTM; novel air vehicles including eVTOL; ground infrastructure systems; new operating models.

  • NESTA Flying High Challenge phase 3 call for projects is anticipated for August. The focus is on how drones can benefit people in an urban environment with a focus on 3 socially beneficial use cases: medical transport, emergency response, and infrastructure development/maintenance. Nesta, represented by Kathy Nothstine, would expect teams forming consortiums rather than single entities as contenders; industry-driven, comprising an end-user such as a hospital.

  • The Pathfinder programme aims to rapidly drive progress in drone technology and regulation over the next 10 years. It focused on 2 main streams of work around BVLOS and UTM. The next Community Day will be held on April 3rd.

Link to original post by the Transport Systems Catapult:


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