Skyports joins UK CAA’s unmanned urban drone trials


The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has accepted drone delivery service provider Skyports on to a testing program which will fly unmanned drones beyond visual line of sight in non-segregated airspace.

London, UK-based Skyports operates cargo drone deliveries and is working with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger and cargo vehicle manufacturers to develop and operate “vertiports” for urban and suburban environments.

The Regulatory Sandbox aims to create an environment where innovation in aviation can be explored in line with UK CAA rules for safety, security and consumer protection. Several companies are involved in various Sandbox projects, including Amazon, Volocopter, Altitude Angel and NATS.

The tests will explore how regulatory approvals can be granted for drones controlled out-of-sight of the remote pilot and flown safely within airspace that is shared with other aircraft, a vital step to enabling drone deliveries.

Duncan Walker, chief executive officer at Skyports, said, “Using drone deliveries within supply chains can create significant time and cost savings. The current Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the role that unmanned aircraft applications can play in keeping the flow of goods moving, especially medical products, limiting human contact and supplying hard-to-reach communities.

“Through this partnership with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, we will be trialing the integration of our unmanned aircraft in shared airspace to demonstrate that our drone deliveries can be operated safely alongside other aircraft.”

Frédéric Laugère, innovation services lead at the CAA, said, “Regularly operating unmanned vehicles beyond visual line of sight [BVLOS] of their operator is a key requirement to maximize the benefits that they can deliver.

“We are delighted to start this new collaboration with Skyports and its partners, and working together to explore requirements under which regulatory approval of BVLOS operations could be granted. The public and the industry will benefit from the findings we generate and the insights we gain.”

Other companies in the Syports’ program include Iris Automation, which will supply its computer-vision based Detect-and-Avoid system Casia for use on the unmanned aircraft. Thales is to provide mission planning and flight management through its unmanned aircraft system Soarizon and provide remote electronic identification for the drone so it can be tracked.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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