UK industrial BVLOS flights go live

It looks like drone flights beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight are moving out of prescribed corridors and into the public arena in the United Kingdom.

This, after Boeing-backed autonomous flight technology developer,, became the first company in the country to secure routine permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in non-segregated airspace, to inspect and monitor the high voltage electricity transmission network.

The company joins a very small elite list of companies worldwide (which include Percepto in the USA) with the licence to perform routine power grid inspections using drones that go BVLOS. uses drone technology capable of enabling close inspection and its technology enables drones to be flown mere metres from infrastructure to capture structured, internally georeferenced data sets of 2D images and 3D models optimised for automated analysis using AI.

“Securing permission to carry out BVLOS drone inspections of the live electricity grid is a major step forward towards our goal of enabling safe operation of drone fleets at national scale,” John McKenna, CEO of said.

“We’re immensely proud that National Grid and the CAA trust us to deploy safely on critical infrastructure and we believe that this permission will pave the way for future advancements in the use of drones for survey and inspection of critical national infrastructure, and beyond into aerial logistics and mobility.”

The latest licence builds on the BVLOS permission that received in April 2021, which allowed the company to remotely operate drones in non-segregated airspace over industrial sites. The new permission now allows routine BVLOS flights on two specific runs of National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) live overhead power lines – an interim step that will allow to demonstrate the safety of extending this permission to NGET’s critical national infrastructure.

In addition, said their latest regulatory breakthrough was an important milestone in the development of an end-to-end automated inspection analysis and reporting solution for electricity grids – a project that and NGET’s data analysis supplier, Keen AI, have been working on with NGET since 2021.

The aim of this project is to enable the NGET’s in-house team to carry out close aerial inspection of overhead lines from BVLOS using’s core tech; and then to use Keen AI’s software for condition assessment, defect resolution and reporting. This project will enable NGET (and other grid operators in time) to more efficiently and effectively determine asset conditions and develop optimal maintenance plans.

“Everyday flying of drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of their operator in the UK will be a significant step forwards in unlocking the full potential of drone technology,” said Sophie O’Sullivan, Head of Future Safety and Innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

“This progress in safely incorporating drones into the airspace so they can inspect infrastructure in this way is a key achievement and a major part of our work to support UK innovation.”

The technology company has been perfecting their product under close laboratory conditions in collaboration with the CAA Regulatory sandbox team since 2019.

The company has made progress towards licensing their core-tech via this project with National Grid, and a second with Marshall Futureworx; and also through two UK Government Future Flight Challenge projects, in which led consortia that included the National Grid, BT and Network Rail.

Mark Simmons, Condition Monitoring Manager at National Grid Electricity Transmission said; “This is a fantastic achievement for and an important step in enabling National Grid to fully exploit the potential of drone technology for network inspections. As we work towards our net zero goals, embracing technologies like these will enable us to deliver an energy future that is clean, fair, and affordable for all.”


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