Skanska has tested a largely autonomous drone controlled remotely by a pilot in a control room 50 miles away.
The drone is being tested on a Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) site in Mindenhurst, Surrey, with the aim of proving the value of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology. The technology is also to be trialled on the HS2 London tunnels main works contract through the Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture.
During the flight at Mindenhurst, the drone captured video and imagery of structural details.
Skanska hopes that BVLOS will reduce cost by cutting down on man-hours and travel, as well as providing real-time data and inspections by the right people from remote locations. It also hopes to protect people’s health and safety by removing the need to attend a live construction site.
The technology was developed by sees.ai, which has gained approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to trial a concept for routine BVLOS operations in closed industrial and urban areas. The intention is, once safety and efficacy of the system has been proved, to deploy it at enterprise scale across UK infrastructure, energy networks, roads, railways and the emergency services.
Sees.ai was recently awarded funding through UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge (part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund), to expand its trials with commercial partners such as HS2, Network Rail, Vodafone, Sellafield Ltd and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.
Sees.ai CEO, John McKenna said: “Congested area operations are very challenging, but the potential reward for unlocking these types of mission in terms of public health & safety, cost efficiency and environmental impact is huge. The successful trials undertaken with Skanska this week are a major step forward in demonstrating the value of Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone technology. We are excited by the results of the trial and what they signal about the acceleration towards a future where drones fly autonomously at scale inside our industrial sites, suburbs and cities.”
Peter Cater, development manager, Skanska added: “We were invited to carry out these trials because of our use and knowledge of drone capability and we were very excited to be the first company in the construction industry to do this. The trials have benefited everyone involved: sees.ai get to test their equipment and remote use of the drones and we get access to accurate, real-time data on our construction activities which benefits us and our customer, DIO.
“Projects like this – at the forefront of innovation – go to show what an exciting industry construction is to be involved in. We are always looking for innovative ways of working, ways to be more sustainable so we can find better solutions for our customers. These trials are just one small part of our digital transformation journey.”
Top image: Skanska and sees.ai test the new advanced drone system at Mindenhurst, Surrey (Image courtesy of sees.ai)