The VTOL flying wing surveyed an area of 2km autonomously and out of the sight of the pilot. Previous to this, it says, drone inspections were limited to flight within visual line of sight (WVLoS) and as such, could not go further than 500 metres from the pilot.
The trial opens up possibilities for BVLoS inspections of long linear infrastructure, such as railways, overhead power lines and roads. Benefits are said to include time savings and reduced inspection and survey costs, as well as an increase in quality, volume, and repeatability of data, enabling better asset management decisions and more efficient maintenance. Furthermore, it also enables inspections and surveys to be undertaken without people needing to work alongside a live railway.
Alex Gilbert, MD of Amey Consulting, says: “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 BVLoS 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 solutions. AmeyVTOL will now be offering the capability to infrastructure owners and operators.