The Sky Hopper team sent a representative to an important conference on “beyond visual line of site” – BVLOS – operations held at the Royal Aeronautical Society in Mayfair early in October.
BVLOS is a future goal of unmanned aerial systems, but to get there from where the industry is today requires a lot of work and co-ordination between industry players and the regulators. Both groups were at the conference and it was a chance to discuss what needs to be done and share ideas with those regulators.
Everyone agrees that BVLOS can come in time, but that new operating processes for UAV systems have to be evolved to allow safe operations to be conducted. There is no specific barrier to moving from remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) to BVLOS except that risk management processes have yet to be developed so that a safety case can be made to make such flights. Those processes already exist in an early form and the Sky Hopper project is known to the regulators as to how we will approach making our case to be allowed to begin and then expand the scope of operations.
We’ll inevitably have to start low and slow, and then go higher and faster .. but we will also be creating a thoroughly documented risk management approach to define our safety case. And from our base in the West of Scotland we have easy access to more remote areas, empty of human beings where we can begin to make that case robust for more adventurous operations through time.
From the point of view of the industry, the most important thing today is that unauthorised flying that puts bystanders in danger must be avoided at all cost. So far, the regulators have taken an enlightened liberal view of what is allowed, but if there are any incidents that are a result of bad risk planning and sloppy operational practice, the emerging industrial development in UAV systems could be set back for a long period.