Amey claims to have completed the first successful drone inspection of UK infrastructure to go beyond visual line of sight (BVLoS) in the UK.
The firm used the ‘VTOL flying wing’ drone to survey an area of 2km autonomously and out of the sight of its pilot. The hybrid drone can fly up to 100km on a single charge.
Prior to this, drone inspections were limited to flight within visual line of sight (WVLoS) and could not go further than 500 metres from the pilot.
Amey said the trial opened up possibilities for BVLoS inspections of long linear infrastructure such as roads, railways and overhead power lines. It claimed the process saves time and reduces inspection and survey costs, was well as increasing the quality, volume, and repeatability of data – enabling better asset management decisions and more efficient maintenance. It also increases safety by removing the need for people to work alongside a live railway.
Alex Gilbert, managing director, Amey Consulting said: “We are delighted to have successfully trialled a UK first for asset management. Through our collaboration with SME VTOL technologies we have developed a genuine innovation that could transform inspections and surveys for asset owners in both the public and private sector. Being able to go beyond visual line of sight will not just provide safer, more effective inspections but it will empower asset managers with increasingly reliable data, resulting in informed, intelligent decision making.”
The demonstration project was part of a government-sponsored Rail First of a Kind (FOAK) programme promoted by Innovate UK through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). SBRI is designed to bring together government challenges and ideas from businesses to create innovative solutions and was instrumental in enabling the demonstration of BVLoS operations.