Noticias

9 febrero 2021

Drone laws: the legal challenges of creating a drone corridor

Drone laws: the legal challenges of creating a drone corridor

As part of our work at Harwell, we’re building a drone corridor with the help of the European Space Agency. What is a drone corridor, though, and what are the laws and restrictions involved in creating one? In this post, we’re going to dig into some of the legal and safety issues of commercial drone operation.

As part of our work at Harwell, we’re building a drone corridor with the help of the European Space Agency. What is a drone corridor, though, and what are the laws and restrictions involved in creating one? In this post, we’re going to dig into some of the legal and safety issues of commercial drone operation. To put together this information, we spoke to David Owens, our chief drone pilot, who’s been flying unmanned aircraft for three decades. Thank you for offering your advice, David! What is a commercial drone corridor? A commercial drone corridor is a flight path that’s been designated for the safe and legal operation of drones. It’s not visible, but it can be pictured as a corridor in the air. The corridor has a ceiling, sides and a floor: it needs to be a certain level above the ground, and there are limits on how high and how far sideways the drones can go. There are some aspects to drone operation that can’t be predicted. For example, you can’t guarantee that birds won’t fly into your drone corridor. But creating a space specifically for commercial drone operation, avoiding structures, crowded areas and other air traffic, means the drones will have as few risks as possible to be mitigated against. Drones and more specifically multicopters have limited battery life, so ensuring they have a clear flight path can make a real difference to how far they can fly. A few seconds here and there are valuable to a drone with a 30-minute flight time. Because of this, drone corridors help to extend the range of drones. Of course, drone corridors also benefit other air traffic. If drones travel through a designated corridor, rather than moving freely, they’re unlikely to disrupt anyone else. Do you need a licence to operate drones? If you’re a hobbyist, you must have two IDs in place before flying most drones or model aircraft (weighing between 250g and 25kg) outdoors in the UK; you must pass a theory test to get a flyer ID, and the person who owns that drone or model aircraft must register for an operator ID too. Most people get both a flyer ID and an operator ID at the same time. If you hope to use drones for commercial purposes, you previously needed a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which regulates unmanned aircraft in the UK. From 31 December 2020, the PfCO has been replaced by a new qualification called the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate, or GVC. To get the GVC, you’ll need to pass a short training course, an exam and a practical flight test. You’ll also need to prepare an operations manual that explains how you’re planning to manage your commercial operation and the safety measures you’re taking. If all of this is approved, you’ll get a ‘permission’ from the CAA that lets you remotely operate small unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes. You’ll also need a valid insurance certificate when you’re operating a commercial drone. You’ll need an additional Operational Safety Case (OSC) permission from the CAA if you’re planning to remotely pilot drones beyond your visual line of sight. What is visual line of sight? It’s a critical rule of drone operation that you need to be able to see the drone you’re flying. In other words, you need to keep the drone within your visual line of sight (VLOS). Even if you can still see it, you can’t fly the drone more than 500 metres from you, or more than 400 feet (120 metres) above the ground. (By convention, pilots use metres for distance and feet for height, so that they can’t be confused easily.) Safety is taken very seriously in drone operation, and operating within VLOS is a simple way to reduce the risk of harm. If you can see the drone, you can also see anything the drone might collide with, and you can take quick action if there’s danger. If you can show you’ve considered and managed the risks, you may be able to get permission from the CAA to fly beyond VLOS (BVLOS). Even with permission, you can only do this within a defined drone corridor, which is part of the reason drone corridors are so useful for commercial drone operation or research. Drone corridors legally have to be designed to reduce any risk of collision; we’ll go into more detail on this below. The planned Darwin Drone Lab corridor at Harwell is about 900 metres long, so, if the drone operator stands at one end, the drone will hit the VLOS limit of 500 metres before it reaches the other end of the corridor. By providing evidence of our safe and legal operations, including the systems in place to minimise risks, we hope to demonstrate to the CAA that we deserve permission to fly BVLOS within 6 to 12 months of VLOS operation. At the moment, it’s still possible to fly drones the full length of the corridor by having a remote pilot in the middle of the corridor with observers stationed at both ends, providing additional safety information to the pilot. This means the drone can fly uninterrupted from 500 metres in one direction to 500 metres in the other without compromising safety or breaking any laws. What are the other laws of operating drones or creating a drone corridor? Even once you have your PfCO/GVC, there are limits on how much your drone can carry, how fast it can fly and where it’s allowed to travel. If you fly over someone else’s land, for example, you need the permission of the landlord, and a drone can’t pass over buildings if it has cameras that could be used to spy through the windows. The law says that you can’t fly a commercial drone within 50 metres of people, vehicles, vessels, buildings or other structures that aren’t under your control. This means that drone corridors won’t necessarily run in a straight line. Flying in a straight line is the most efficient way to cover a large distance, but it might bring your drone into areas that are off-limits, so planning is key to safe operation. Drones have to stay at least 150 metres away from large crowds of 150 people or more, and a drone corridor can’t pass over parks or other places where people are likely to gather. It’s possible for drones to cross a footpath, but these regulations are put in place to ensure that drones don’t pass over ‘uninvolved people’, so the drone operator should make sure the footpath is clear before allowing the drone to cross it. Darwin’s drone corridor at Harwell passes mainly over open fields and trees. Whenever you’re flying a drone, whether you’re a hobbyist or a commercial drone pilot, you need to make sure you’re operating legally and you’re operating safely. Most of the drone laws in place exist to make sure drones can coexist safely with people going about their daily lives. On the occasions when accidents do occur, or when drones pass too close to other aircraft (an air proximity or ‘airprox’ event), these incidents are reported, examined and learnt from in order to make the skies even safer. UK drone law is an extensive and complicated subject, but this overview should help to give you an idea of it! We also have an article where we talk more about the practical applications of drones. Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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29 enero 2021

Interview with Zarrar Jadoon, a Darwin software developer

Interview with Zarrar Jadoon, a Darwin software developer

If you’re wondering what it’s like to work for Darwin, here’s a quick interview with one of our employees to give you some insight. Zarrar Jadoon is one of our software developers, working with connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

If you’re wondering what it’s like to work for Darwin, here’s a quick interview with one of our employees to give you some insight. Zarrar Jadoon is one of our software developers, working with connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). He’s planning to start his own business, using some of the skills he’s refined at Darwin, but we had a chat with him before he left. Hi, Zarrar. How long have you been working for Darwin? I’ve been working with Darwin for about a year. I started working at the Harwell campus in early 2020, but from March we started working from home because of the COVID situation. How was the transition to working from home? At the start, it was a bit hard; I wasn’t used to working from home, and I needed to set up my office and everything. I was thinking, ‘Oh, no, this isn’t going to work.’ But I went into my living room and went, ‘Okay, this table will be mine,’ and I built my own small office from there. After a week or two, I felt so comfortable working from home. It was amazing to realise it was something I could actually do. What were you doing before Darwin? I started working with Darwin while I was finishing my Master’s degree in Advanced Computer Science at Oxford Brookes. I’d previously done some freelance work as well. What’s your role at Darwin? I work in the software development team, on the front end. I’ve been creating a website that collects and processes data from CAVs. It fetches real-time data from automated vehicles and presents the information clearly to the user, using graphs and charts, so they can see, for example, the speed and location of the car. It’s really interesting work. It’s amazing to work with new technology. We’ve been using React, and it’s very quick and lightweight. How have you found the experience of working with Darwin? There have been a lot of opportunities for learning, and also for working as a team. I used to work as a freelancer on individual projects, so being part of a team was a new experience for me. It took me a little time to get used to that level of communication, but slowly my team pushed me to communicate more and to become more comfortable with meetings. I think I learnt a lot from that. The team are amazing. They support me in everything. I really feel I’ve had a lot of help here, even working from home. You can just email or text anyone in the Darwin team if you need something. What's your favourite thing about the work you’ve been doing here? Learning new technology and being involved in such a big, exciting project. The work with Harwell has been an amazing experience for me, seeing how CAVs can send real-time data to the cloud and how it can be retrieved in a millisecond. I think that’s very impressive. Thank you so much to Zarrar for taking the time to answer our questions! It’s been good to have you with us, and we wish you the best in your future endeavours. Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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12 enero 2021

The Darwin Advent Wellbeing Challenge

The Darwin Advent Wellbeing Challenge

In these times, it’s important to remember the good things that we have in our lives. Most of us can still enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a walk. It feels great to get some fresh air and exercise, to explore our surroundings and see what new things we can discover.

In December, Darwin offered its team a playful challenge: could we walk a total of one million steps over the Advent period?

In these times, it’s important to remember the good things that we have in our lives. Most of us can still enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a walk. It feels great to get some fresh air and exercise, to explore our surroundings and see what new things we can discover. In December, Darwin offered its team a playful challenge: could we walk a total of one million steps over the Advent period? If we reached the goal, Darwin would honour our achievement by planting 24 trees at Harwell campus: one for each day of the challenge. Just to be clear, that’s one million steps in total, rather than one million steps per person. Some people threw themselves so enthusiastically into the challenge that it seemed like they were trying to reach the million on their own, though. In particular, we have to applaud Steve and Ram, our top walkers. We had 24 days to fulfil the challenge, but in the end we hit the target on day 21. It’s a fantastic achievement, and hopefully one that everyone enjoyed contributing to! Here’s a graph of the steps per day, with thanks to Mihailo for his statistical work. We walk a lot more on Saturdays than on Wednesdays, it seems. This just runs up to the day we reached a million steps, but people were still sending Mihailo step counts even after we met the goal! Congratulations to the Darwin team! The trees we plant as a result will contribute towards the steps we’re taking to offset our carbon dioxide emissions, and hopefully they’ll bring pleasure to people at Harwell for years to come. There’s a space at Harwell campus that’s been designated for the Darwin grove, and we’ll be planting the 24 trees in the first week of March. In the meantime, please enjoy a few more of Daniela’s photographs from her gorgeous winter walks in Oxford! Pablo the dog is the real star here.     Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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18 diciembre 2020

Season’s greetings from Darwin

Season’s greetings from Darwin

It’s been a strange, difficult year, and many of us will be glad to leave it behind. At the same time, it’s been a year that’s demonstrated the power of research and development.

Season’s greetings from Darwin! It’s been a strange, difficult year, and many of us will be glad to leave it behind. At the same time, it’s been a year that’s demonstrated the power of research and development. In 2020, we’ve seen unprecedented achievements in the quick development of vaccines. These achievements were made because people were willing to devote their skills and effort to research and testing, in the heartfelt belief that we can make the future better than today. This is why Darwin exists. Fully autonomous vehicles, greener transport, drones that can deliver life-saving supplies in a matter of minutes: there’s so much incredible technology within our grasp, if we can just reach a little further. We’re working hard to get us there. See you in 2021. Let’s make it a better year. Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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24 noviembre 2020

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the spring of 2020, Neste, HERE technologies, PTV Group and VTT collaborated on a small experiment in the Helsinki area to see whether navigation systems recommended the ‘most CO2-friendly route’. The gist of the experiment was this: A car took three different routes from point A to point B: the route suggested by the navigation system, and two other routes. The car repeated the journeys to make sure the results were accurate, as, for example, unusually heavy traffic on one route could throw off the results. The experiment was done 13 times with different starting points and destinations, each time driving three different routes from point A to point B (so 39 routes were driven in total). The Finnish technical research centre VTT analysed the data from each journey. In a third of the cases, the navigation system’s recommended route wasn’t the most environmentally friendly. The most fuel-efficient route tended to be the shortest, which wasn’t necessarily the fastest. You can find Neste’s writeup here. You might have caught that 13 isn’t a large sample size, and it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from small experiments. Still, it’s interesting that such a large proportion of the recommended routes weren’t the most fuel-efficient even in a small sample. There’s clearly room for more work to be done on finding the most environmentally friendly driving routes possible, and that’s one of the areas Darwin is interested in. The Darwin SatCom Lab has been experimenting with using LiDAR sensors to track the carbon dioxide output of its connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs). By switching seamlessly between satellite and 5G, Darwin can remain constantly connected to its vehicles and receive data on the carbon footprint of the fleet in real time. O2, which aims to become net zero carbon by 2025, is supporting this research. Gathering clear, accurate information on the fuel efficiency of routes is essential if we want to train navigation systems to cut down on CO2 emissions. A human driver can choose to take a more environmentally friendly route than the one that navigation software recommends, but it’s obviously harder for a fully autonomous vehicle to overrule the recommended route. If navigation software is provided with information about emissions, and if it’s taught to value the environment as well as speed, it’ll result in lower CO2 emissions for both human drivers and CAVs. Darwin’s ability to track carbon dioxide emissions is something delivery companies can also make use of. We can measure the emissions of all the vehicles in a fleet based on the vehicle’s age, the weight of the load, the type of fuel and so on. We’ll also look at the satellite imagery of the route each vehicle takes, so we can put the data in context and take, for example, carbon capture from trees into account. With all this knowledge, we can give informed advice on how the fleet can reduce its carbon footprint. In some cases, it may be possible to replace a diesel or petrol fleet with electric vehicles, based on the availability of charging points. We can give advice on that as well. In the fight against climate change, the changes that individuals or companies make can add up to make a real difference. We want to help identify and make those changes. Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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