DRONES: UK Industry Group Call for Testing Ground Implementation

Apr 17, 2020 • Newsfuture of field servicedronesLast MileUK Drone Delivery Group

A whitepaper from the UK Drone Delivery group says implementing testing grounds for the technology could accelerate a potentially successful UK drone industry.

The UK Drone Delivery Group says a mass-participation commercial drone testing programme would be a significant step in bringing the drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to the country's skies.

In a recently published white paper the group, made up of 300 senior leaders, calls for the development of new testing grounds which it says will contribute to the UK becoming a world leader in the drone industry.

Service delivery

The publication of the white paper comes as the use of UAVs for commercial purposes such as parcel and service deliveries continues to be plagued with issues around legislation and regulation.

Currently UAVs operating Beyond Visual Line of Site (BVLOS) require permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate. There is also ambiguity on Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) and the development of an Unmanned Air Traffic Management System (UTM) - Air Traffic Control for drones - continues.

The group formed in 2018 by drone industry expert Robert Garbett is ultimately seeking to agree on a solution that covers all BVLOS, VTOL and (UTM) issues and to eventually lobby government in establishing a clear path to a UK-wide commercial drone industry.

Garbett says implementing the could bring substantial benefits to the country but indicated the need for testing areas needed to happen swiftly. "Facilitating a world leading UK commercial drone industry will bring immense benefits to UK plc, driving innovation, wealth creation and employment opportunities right across the economy," he said.

"...we need to act now. We are keen to identify new testing grounds to be used for take-off and landing, ideally including airports and airfields, but also forests, remote coastal areas and ports through to residential areas and other dense urban environments."

The whitepaper will now undergo a period of consultation followed by a review with full completion expected by the end of June. A draft of the white paper can be found here, which includes a facility for comments. Feedback is required by the 31 May.

In service, the use of drones has been discussed as a way to assist in final-mile delivery particularly in traffic-dense urban areas. Amazon have been hinting at a drone delivery service since 2013. Amazon Prime Air was showcased at last year's re:MARS conference but it remains grounded due to aviation regulations.