The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is inviting bids for a pilot program that will explore how the adoption of drone technology could assist rescue missions, maritime inspections and more.
The £990,000 tender was published last week and the contract is set to start in September.
The priorities of the UK Coastguard are to use the demonstration and development contract to assess the use of drones, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of MCA operations and reduce the risk to MCA personnel.
Drones could support rescues and pollution research
As well as providing an around-the-clock coastal search and rescue service throughout the UK, the MCA is tasked with reactive aerial surveillance flights to determine the presence, size and type of pollution on the water.
This aerial surveillance capability is required by a bunch of government departments, from fisheries management to law enforcement.
The expectation is that the introduction of drones could improve the speed of response, reduce costs and perform automated functions which would add to the MCA’s overall coverage.
The program is also part of a wider push by the UK government to continue innovation in the aerospace sector. Should it be successful, there are a number of departments and agencies that could look to take up drone technology, including the Border Force, the Marine Management Organisation the Environment Agency, and the Ordnance Survey.
Addressing and removing barriers to BVLOS flights
The tender addresses the elephant in the room in terms of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s current restrictions on BVLOS flights.
For that reason, “the key deliverable the MCA aims to achieve from a drone demonstration and development contract is to address and remove the regulatory issues and barriers to allow Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight in unsegregated and uncontrolled UK airspace.”
Evidence gathered during the trial will be used to support recommendations for the deployment of drones moving forward. The MCA is seeking the “removal of the regulatory barriers currently preventing drone operations BVLOS in unsegregated and uncontrolled airspace from being a commonplace occurrence.”
Proving how effective they can be is a necessary step.