Former fighter pilots will train civilian drone pilots to fly drones completely out of sight
A drone-flying training course, which allows pilots to be trained to fly drones from far distances, has been established in the UK.
Training for the program is conducted by former RAF and Royal Navy fighter pilots, as well as ex-Army Air Corps helicopter pilots and Civil Aviation Authority examiners. All of those running the course work for Flyby, a drone training company.
The ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) course takes how the military use and control the drone technology – which is sometimes from hundreds or thousands of miles away from the actual drone itself – to create a civilian concept from it.
Flyby drones are currently being used in countries such as France to send anti-bacterial products for further protection from COVID-19. The drones have also carried coronavirus samples to laboratories from hospitals and testing sites.
Taking place at a school in Leicestershire, all pilots on the scheme have to commit to a month-long intensive training programme.
Once the training is completed, the pilots will become the best qualified in the world and will be permitted to fly drones in any location. They can also be flown overseas whilst the pilot is situated in the UK.
The drones can carry weights of up to 150kg, allowing them to transport deliveries for humanitarian emergencies into remote areas that may have been struck by a natural disaster.
Currently, drones can only be flown within the sight of the operator is isn’t allowed to surpass a 400ft height limit.
“Yesterday, drones were all about taking photos and videos, today it’s about inspecting buildings, power lines and other infrastructure but tomorrow it will all be about operations beyond visual line of sight and we are now training these drone pilots of tomorrow,” said Jon Parker, Flyby Technology Founder and former RAF pilot.
“They will be the best pilots in the world using the best technology and the best innovation to take aviation to the next level. In short, the skills needed to fly manned aircraft are being taken into the drone world to the extent that when they graduate Flyby pilots will receive their ‘wings’ and wear a uniform.”
Benefits of using the technology are that the cost to run drones is far lower than flying aircraft and the size of them allows them to go where helicopters and aeroplanes would not be able to. Rescue teams would no longer need to put themselves at risk by searching in certain terrain such as rivers with strong currents and dangerous mountain sides.
Drones can produce high resolution images that can be used for inspecting power lines, railways and gas pipelines.
Fitted with a very clear imaging system and recording equipment, the drones are able to gather vital information that would have previously been impossible or too difficult to collect.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK fully supports the new initiative.
David Tait, Acting Head of the UK CAA innovation team, said: “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.”
With the CAA endorsing the BVLOS course, the industry could see further benefits including, drone parcel delivery, long distance aerial surveys of infrastructure, surveillance at the scene of an accident and street mapping an entire city with optical and acoustic sensors.
Flyby technologies ethos revolves around designing, building and operating the drones to cater for different company’s needs.
The NHS has also addressed the positives of using the technology to further its cause within the current health crisis. A government spokesperson said: “NHS England anticipates that the recovery phase of this pandemic can significantly benefit from drones delivering medical payloads including equipment, medications, blood packs and more.
“Therefore, investing in their solution will continue to provide the NHS with an enhanced logistics system even after the pandemic is behind us.”
The CAA has granted the technology firm approval for the course to become an official recognised assessment entity.