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UK regulator OKs first beyond visual line of sight test flights for drones

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority will allow a West Sussex-based drone company to operate regular flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight. It’s to test the safety of the technology. And it could be the beginning of a logistical transformation, leading to delivering parcels by drone.

Unless they have specific clearance, drone operators in the UK must be able to see their machines at all time while in flight. And it’s typically illegal to fly drones over populated areas.

However, the drone firm is the first UK company with permission to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. It’s a test project, and flights must be under 150 feet. An observer will still need to spot the drone and communicate with the pilot if necessary. But the pilot could be hundreds of miles away. will test the concept in industrial environments for inspection and maintenance purposes.

This could be the beginning of using drones for broader uses, such as deliveries.

Regular flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight

“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,” says John McKenna, CEO at “I think shipping Amazon packages or delivering pizzas is coming, but still a long way off. Here in the UK I think we have a high quality of life and high privacy expectations,” he told the Financial TImes.

Ireland is already testing BVLOS technology. Last year, the British supermarket chain Tesco launched a grocery delivery service in Oranmore, County Galway.

BVLOS Briitain
One of Manna’s delivery drones

Tesco partnered with drone delivery startup Manna to conduct the trials. Manna’s been busy in Ireland. It’s customized drones already delivering medicines and other items to customers. Its drones can fly at 80 kph to deliver packages of up to 4 kg. And if you’re living in Oranmore, you can just click here to start getting your deliveries.

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Avatar for David MacQuarrie David MacQuarrie

David MacQuarrie is a 35 year+ veteran of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He worked in St. John’s, Ottawa, Toronto, and Beijing where he worked as a news writer, reporter, producer for the national and local television and radio networks. His stories on science and technology won ACTRA and Columbus awards.