The U.K. Drones Pathfinder program has announced the addition of a new Pathfinder led by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The project, announced May 12, will allow the MCA to regularly and routinely use drones to carry out its time critical, reactive search and rescue, and international counter pollution obligations.
The MCA Drone Demonstration and Development Pathfinder aims to explore and develop the safe use of drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) through demonstration of drones such as the Hermes 900 in all classes of airspace.
The MCA will deliver this project by working in partnership with Elbit Systems U.K., Inzpire and Aviation Systems Group (ASG) and through close co-operation with the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Flight trials of the Hermes 900 are designed to demonstrate the safe use of drones in unsegregated airspace and will be conducted from West Wales Airport in late Summer 2020. The MCA Drone Demonstration and Development Pathfinder seeks to demonstrate the use of Hermes 900 and Skylark I-LEX drones in the agency’s life-saving work and will explore ways to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of staff.
The project is in alignment with the U.K. Drones Pathfinder program, which is sponsored by the Department for Transport (DfT) and takes a phased approach to achieving routine use of drones within the U.K., identifying and overcoming the technical, operational, and commercial barriers for bringing new BVLOS services to the UK. The DfT has now confirmed that funding for the Pathfinder program will be extended to cover the 2020-21 period.
Transport Minister Rachael Maclean MP said the project could mean that search and rescue teams can cover a wider search area, pick up more incidents and tend to these quickly and safely. “Going beyond search and rescue, the project will also help teams to quickly spot and tackle pollution, protecting our valuable marine environment.”
The MCA is investing £1m in the project and will combine its experience in managing aviation operations with its expertise in search and rescue and counter pollution to direct the project.