Uncrewed drones could be a step closer following the conclusion of a project as part of Future Flight Challenge Phase 2. The Met Office supported the consortium lead, sees.ai, in the ‘Distributed BVLOS Aviation System’ project, aimed at developing and validating the first aviation system capable of enabling commercial ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) drone services at scale alongside manned aviation (including complex missions in congested urban and industrial environments).
Starting in December 2020 and concluding May 2022, the project was funded as a share of £30million from the Industrial Strategy Fund (ISCF), delivered by UK Research and Innovation.
The Met Office supported the consortium lead, sees.ai, by providing forecasts for ten increasingly complex and challenging flight trials aimed at expanding and proving the concept of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations for uncrewed aircraft.
Weather forecast information, comprised of a mix of complex weather models and the expertise of meteorologists and scientists, was provided by the Met Office to understand the challenges specific to drones in varied locations in relation to the weather.
Trial flights were supported by the Met Office, giving confidence of safe operation and efficiency of the project to ensure maximum knowledge could be gained from trial flights. Outlook forecasts also identified when weather was likely to hamper drone performance, allowing sees.ai to cancel and reschedule flights to minimise disruption and reduce costs.
Chris Tyson, International Aviation and Developments Manager at the Met Office said: “This has been a great project to work on. Weather will bring challenges to uncrewed drone operations and it’s important all stakeholders collaborate to better understand and mitigate those challenges as the industry scales up. Having the opportunity to work so closely with sees.ai – who were open and transparent in the way they shared relevant information with the Met Office regarding their operational capabilities – has helped the Met Office better understand the challenges.”
John McKenna, CEO of sees.ai said: “The Met Office has been a hugely valuable partner on this project, providing hyper-local, real time weather reports that were instrumental in trial planning and logistics, as well as giving us crucial insight into how weather can impact uncrewed drone operations. With the Met Office’s input, the trials of our software were successful and our journey towards delivering commercial BVLOS drone operations at scale in the UK and beyond continues apace.”