Tracking system to be fitted on UK delivery drones

The new system should make it safer for drones and passenger jets to share the sky. The system will pave the way for commercial operators to fly unmanned aircraft regularly over longer distances than is currently possible.

The aim is to keep the lower-level air space, to which drones would still be restricted, safe. That means preventing drones crashing into each other as well as eliminating the risk to passenger jets and other manned aircraft, which are already tracked.

Currently, owners are required to keep drones within their own line of sight unless they have been given special permission to do otherwise. The new system is being co-developed by the air traffic control service Nats and a start-up, Altitude Angel and they aim to launch it in 2019.

There are reports of conversations within the drone industry and it is believed that trials of the new system could begin within the UK before the end of 2018.

Unmanned aircraft would still need to be fitted with technology to allow their locations to be shared, as well as sensors and software to react independently to collision threats.

Mr Sage predicted that blood deliveries and search-and-rescue missions would be among early uses of drones that could fly beyond their operators’ sightlines.

But another expert said companies such as Amazon might be keen to shift parts of their logistics operations off the road.


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