Unmanned drones to be tested in step toward air parcel deliveries

Pilotless drones will be tested in the UK in the new year in a step toward making Amazon-type deliveries by air a reality.

An official trial will see an unmanned small aircraft tested beyond an operator’s visual line of sight, which is currently banned under normal aviation rules.

According to the Times, an operator in a control room “will monitor semi autonomous drones being flown 50 miles away, initially carrying out inspections on construction sites” in an advanced evaluation in February.

Earlier this month, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a guide aimed at making unmanned drone flights an “everyday occurrence”.

Benefits could include drone parcel deliveries, long-distance aerial surveys of infrastructure and construction, and surveying the scenes of accidents and crimes, it said.

Currently, drone owners cannot fly above an altitude of 400 ft and must keep the aircraft within their direct line of sight so it does not collide with other aircraft.

The Times reported West Sussex-based company Sees.ai would carry out the trial in February at a Skanska construction site in February using a DJI S900 drone inspecting work for engineers and architects.

The CAA has confirmed sees.ai is developing technology for unmanned drone operations and said tests were planned with companies including Skanska.

David Tait, from the CAA, said earlier this month: “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.”

“We are now working closely with some of the world’s leading innovators to make these amazing possibilities a reality.”