The UKs largest drone data provider, SenSat, has successfully completed the first 12 kilometre Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) drone flight in complex airspace, breaking the existing record by a factor of 10. Awarded the UK Government’s Pathfinder status, SenSat were granted to fly drones beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, a world first within complex airspace. This is a pivotal moment and a major development in unlocking an estimated £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030 by establishing safe operational practices for millions of future pilots.
SenSat is pioneering the use of a new technique called Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry, which uses survey-grade GPS to digitally recreate the world in incredible detail. Their Artificial Intelligence (AI) turns real time complex data into actionable insight, helping companies to make more informed decisions based on real world information.
The drone Pathfinder programme consists of a series of partnerships between the Government and the industry in key sectors, trialling how drones can be ambitiously used to improve services. The Department for Transport (DfT) awarded SenSat Pathfinder status based upon their proven experience and reliability. The company was approved to fly drones 12km away from a pilot, a feat that allows drones to become useful in areas such as data capture, goods delivery and security. Currently standard permissions will only permit drone flights up to 500m from the pilot, whilst maintaining direct visual contact. Now BVLOS has been achieved, SenSat will provide test data results and feedback on policy decisions before they are put before Parliament in the early 2020s.
SenSat’s BVLOS means that they can cut the price of drone data by up to 90%, allowing companies to utilise data more frequently. For example, High Speed 2 (HS2), a £56 billion rail project connecting London with Birmingham, would typically have required 470 individual drone flights to map the area. Now SenSat can capture data for the same area in just seven flights, boosting efficiency by more than 75 times over the next closest commercial operator.
SenSat not only allows companies to cut cost and save time, it also means that through using drone technology, they assure their safety position, reducing the need for ‘boots on the ground’ in hazardous working conditions and the need to close roads to traffic. If progress continues at this rate, SenSat could be the only drone company that can do this for the next three years. The gains are already being felt on HS2 where teams now assess the site in real time and discuss plans in a visual and intuitive sense, fuelled by the provision of high quality, high frequency data.
SenSat now have the ability to fly over 1,400km in a single day - a distance equivalent to London from Ibiza - at one-tenth of the cost. As the UK's largest drone data provider and consultant PwC’s sole drone technology partner, SenSat have flown over 9,000km above live highways and supported more than £3.5 billion worth of Infrastructure projects.
The majority of commercial drone operations will remain impossible to execute without BVLOS. SenSat’s success means that the full potential of drones can now be released, allowing UK businesses to maximise the opportunity that using drones presents, creating an estimated 628,000 jobs in the drone economy by 2030.
“If you need one reason to use SenSat, it is because they are safer than other methods of data capture”, said Steve Fox, CEO, BAM Nuttall. “The fact not a single person steps foot in a dangerous area speaks for itself.”
James Dean, CEO of SenSat said: “BVLOS is often cited as the turning point for our industry, it is the moment from which we can begin to see drones truly making a positive impact on our daily lives. ” comments Dean. “At SenSat we are using that advantage to make data freely available, with the ultimate goal of driving better decision making that brings transparency and consistency across publicly funded infrastructure projects.”
Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister said: “Drones have the potential to bring great social and economic benefits to the UK so it’s inspiring to see a British company helping to unlock these benefits with cutting edge technology and engineering. The Government wants the UK to be a global leader in drone services which is why we have begun introducing a world class legal framework to ensure this exciting technology is used safely and responsibly – which in turn will support the industry to thrive.”