UK CAA authorizes first Beyond Visual Line drone test flights

Bannafarsai_Stock/Shutterstock has become the first company in the UK to secure authorization from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to trial a concept for routine Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. 

Currently, all other drone operators must keep their aircraft within line of sight and follow the drone code unless they have specific permissions. But West Sussex-based aims to enable commercial BVLOS drone services at scale alongside manned aviation.

The permissions come as part of a test project to prove the concept ahead of potentially opening it up to the wider market. The authorization enables to fly BVLOS at three nominated sites without needing to pre-authorize each flight. The authorization allows BVLOS flights to occur under 150 feet (45 meters) and initially requires an observer to remain in the visual line of sight with the aircraft and able to communicate with the remote pilot if necessary. 

“We are accelerating towards a future where drones fly autonomously at scale – high up alongside manned aviation and low down inside our industrial sites, suburbs and cities,” John McKenna, the CEO at said. “Securing this UK-first permission is a major step on this journey which will deliver big benefits to society across public health & safety, efficiency and environmental impact.” initially plans to apply the concept in industrial environments for inspection, monitoring, and maintenance purposes before extending it over time to more challenging missions. Data gathered from these test flights will be used to consider the success of the operations and whether the risk and hazard assessments can be used to cover generic risks beyond the three trial sites.

“Our innovation team was set up to meet the rapid pace of technological advances in the UK, so to see businesses like thriving and creating world-leading solutions that will benefit infrastructure and markets is really exciting,” said David Tait, Head of Innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority. “We are proud to have played our part in sustaining the UK’s position as one of the greatest locations in the world for innovative companies.”

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