Pioneering companies in the emerging uncrewed aviation industry have joined forces in a forum established by air traffic control leader NATS, to break through the barriers to the UK industry’s development.
The BVLOS Operations Forum, which includes the UK’s leading beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operators, brings together organisations at the cutting edge of uncrewed flight to learn from each other’s experiences, collectively improve their operations, and jointly develop solutions to the challenges faced by this fast-growing industry.
The ever-increasing number of operators believe there are huge potential benefits to achieving routine BVLOS flights – including increased connectivity, decarbonisation, and economic opportunities for all parts of the country. Because innovation in this sector has moved so quickly, regulations have not yet caught up, meaning BVLOS flights are still restricted to specific areas.
Some progress has been achieved and the Forum has actively supported recent policy initiatives which set out a positive direction from the Government and the regulator. However, operators are still operating in restricted spaces. While these have allowed the sector to hone operations and develop real opportunities for BVLOS services, many operators, including members of the BVLOS Operations Forum, have now outgrown the available capacity and the constraints are posing a genuine challenge to their business model.
Looking for ways to address that, while encouraging ever-increasing safety standards, is the central mission of the Forum.
Russell Porter, Head of UTM Programmes at NATS and Chair of the BVLOS Operations Forum, said:“The BVLOS Operations Forum has given those seeking to operate uncrewed aircraft beyond-visual-line-of-sight a platform to work together, and a means for driving change and establishing a safe and workable regulatory regime that will benefit the industry as a whole.
“This method of working together has been used by traditional airspace operators for many years and has contributed to the robust safety culture that exists today. By uniting uncrewed operators with extensive experience and equally extensive ambition we can develop a similarly robust safety culture, and collectively plot a course toward safely integrated BVLOS operations.”
The founding members of the Forum include ARPAS UK, Blue Bear, Callen Lenz, Flylogix, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, NATS, Network Rail, sees.ai, Skyports and Windracers, all of whom are actively involved in developing BVLOS operations, and some of whom are already operating BVLOS flights commercially.
The shared goal is to achieve routine BVLOS operations, outside of restricted areas and integrated with other traffic, making uncrewed aircraft a safe and effective option in the aeronautical toolbox.