Success for first UK ‘beyond visual line of sight’ drone inspection

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drone inspection, BVLoS,

AmeyVTOL, the joint venture between Amey and VTOL technologies, has successfully trialled the first drone inspection of UK infrastructure to go beyond visual line of sight (BVLoS)

During the drone inspection demonstration, the VTOL flying wing surveyed an area of 2km autonomously and out of the sight of the pilot.

Prior to this, drone inspections were limited to flight within visual line of sight (WVLoS) and as such, could not go further than 500 metres from the pilot.

Benefits of BVLoS

The successful trial opens up significant possibilities for BVLoS inspections of long linear infrastructure such as roads, railways and overhead power lines.

BVLoS saves time and reduces inspection and survey costs. It also increases the quality, volume, and repeatability of data – enabling better asset management decisions and more efficient maintenance.

Most importantly, it also allows drone inspections and surveys to be undertaken without people needing to work alongside a live railway, removing ‘boots from ballast’.

The success was made possible through AmeyVTOL’s innovative VTOL Flying Wing which can fly up to 100km on a single charge due to a unique hybrid design and an optimised energy system.

Preparation and execution of the trial was made possible through AmeyVTOL’s operational control centre which enables the planning, simulation, and remote monitoring of BVLoS drone operations.

Advanced communications and simulation capabilities were developed in partnership with Collins Aerospace.

‘More effective inspections’

Alex Gilbert, managing director at Amey Consulting, said: “We are delighted to have successfully trialled a UK first for asset management. Through our collaboration with SME VTOL technologies we have developed a genuine innovation that could transform inspections and surveys for asset owners in both the public and private sector.

“Being able to go beyond visual line of sight will not just provide safer, more effective inspections but it will empower asset managers with increasingly reliable data, resulting in informed, intelligent decision making.”

The demonstration project was part of a government-sponsored Rail First of a Kind (FOAK) programme promoted by Innovate UK through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

AmeyVTOL will now be offering this capability to infrastructure owners and operators who want to deliver efficient and repeatable asset safety and condition drone inspections.

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