PSNI BVLOS drone training a UK ‘first’

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Consortiq has announced that it has completed the delivery of a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone training course to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), in what it believes is the first example of routine training of this type undertaken outside of segregated airspace for emergency services in the UK.

Following a change in regulations from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on 31 July 2017 that relaxed rules for emergency services’ use of drones, the PSNI approached Consortiq and the training was then rapidly initiated, said the firm. The CAA’s Official Record Series (ORS) 4 No 1233, which outlined a relaxation of the normal operating limits for emergency service operators – subject to certain criteria being met – will apply to major incidents, said Consortiq. A major incident in this regard is defined as ‘one which is beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security’.

Consortiq explained: “Importantly, it states that the criteria for a relaxation of these limitations should first be in line with an appropriate decision that is taken while operating under the remit of the UK Emergency Services Joint Decision Model. This is where to act within the normal framework might unduly bring harm or cause loss of life, so a decision is taken to temporarily exceed these limitations. It is akin to the current rules which allow emergency service vehicles to proceed through a road traffic red light and exceed speed limits where the circumstances of an event dictate that it is expedient to do so.”

In ORS 1233, the relaxation of the limitation on the emergency services operator may have a significant increase in the level of risk undertaken during these types of operations, said Consortiq. They must still operate within the bounds of the published operations manual, but can now fly out to 1,000 m (3,280 ft), or even beyond 2,000 m (6,560 ft) in exceptional circumstances, following a decision by the appropriate level of tactical command for the incident.

The operational training involved operating a drone out to 1,000 m (and beyond), which takes the emergency services operator into the territory of EVLOS (extended visual line of sight) and BVLOS operations. To maintain a sufficient level of situational awareness for the operator to still take action to avoid collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, a network of observers may be required, all of whom must be fully trained and equipped to work as a whole team, communicating openly and concisely with the remote pilot in control, said the training company.

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