The British rail management business Network Rail has, according to its own say, carried out the longest drone flight out of sight of the pilot (BVLOS) in the United Kingdom to date. The flight over a distance of 25 km took place last Wednesday. The aircraft with which the flight was carried out is a SkyRobot FX10 fixed-wing drone, geared up with both an RGB zoom cam and a thermal imager.

Making helicopters redundant

Drones and helicopters have long been used by Network Rail to identify issues on the track, aid forecast malfunctions and decrease trouble to guests, while also representing a safer kind of upkeep by the limitation the number of manual examinations to be carried out on foot.

The aim of Network Rail is to make helicopter flights, which are still required to inspect long routes, redundant by using drones. However then the drones need to fly over longer distances than the 4 kilometers that has up until now been maximally attainable without a BVLOS authorization.

For recently’s test flight, which took a year and a half of preparation, a section of the East West Railway in between London and Birmingham was chosen. The drone took a trip a range of no less than 25 km. As part of the requirements for the BVLOS permit, the drone was geared up with an ADS-B transponder. During the flight, a Network Rail helicopter flew along to examine whether the two airplane might interact during the mission and to check whether the onboard systems recognized each other.

Long method to go The test went successful, stressed Rikke Carmichael, head of air operations at Network Rail, that much still needs to be done prior to drones can be released on a big scale.”While flying out of the sight of the pilot will eventually provide us far more chances, it’s worth emphasizing that this was a proof-of-concept flight which a shift towards using BVLOS as service as normal will take some time.”

“Nevertheless, the other day was an essential milestone and I wish to thank my group for all their effort on this project recently,” Carmichael continued. “We will now focus our attention on agreeing a method for utilizing drones, both VLOS and BVLOS, after which we want to work with the industry for the next exciting stage where BVLOS will end up being another regular service the Air Ops group offers the business.”

SkyRobot FX10

The SkyRobot FX10 is a fixed-wing drone with a maximum flight time of 2.5 hours. The drone is electrically powered and has a maximum take-off weight of 6.5 kg and the optimum flight range is 35 km. To perform examinations, the gadget is equipped with a daylight cam with 40x zoom and a thermal imager.