Andrew McQuillan, director of Crowded Space Drones, thinks that drones have become an indispensable part of our life and various organisations have drone programmes nowadays, even companies one would not expect to have unmanned vehicles.
Sputnik: How significant is this decision to trial drones from Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency? What opportunities could this provide?
Andrew McQuillan: It means they're more flexible. Whilst they have a large number of rescue helicopters around, it doesn't mean you need one of those go to every job but at the moment that's the only capability they have, so these drones can fill in for other jobs that previously the helicopter had to be deployed to. If you have some people in the summer lost, a dingy technique, for example, has come off the beach, the drone could be immediately sent to go and find that dingy and then lifeguard can go to the beach meaning the helicopter can be saved for bigger rescues where people need to be winched up and on transported hospital. It's going to relieve pressure on the coast guard helicopters.
It's been a long time coming but we now have a better system and there's new regulations coming out this year called The Online Traffic Regulations, which means you can integrate unmanned drones in longer distances in the more urban environments like cities are beaches and anywhere populated. It's really been waiting for the law to come into play to allow them to do things like this. It's great to see and it's something that they've been working on behind the scenes for quite a while now.
Sputnik: Ok. If successful and drones are used by the MCA, what new challenges or problems could this create for the organisation going forward?
Andrew McQuillan: Well it's not really going to create them any problems but beaches and coastal areas are favourite for light aircraft and what we call general aviation - people going out to fly in for fun and for helicopters of different things as well. They typically fly at lower levels along the coast because they're not really at risk to anyone, they've got certain rules in terms of how high above house and buildings and cities, whereas those do come into play over the sea. Making sure they are managing these areas properly so these unmanned drones don't conflict with coast guard or helicopter themselves or any other users or very low airspace along the sea. That's going to be crucial to the success of this program but it's going to create nothing but benefits maritime agencies see because they're going rescue people probably quicker now with more service kept for helicopters so they can rescue more people as well.
Sputnik: What other industries and organisations in the UK could likely follow suit and implement drone use in the future?
Andrew McQuillan: You'd be surprised how many organisations actually have drone programs. Everyone hears of the likes of Amazon wanting to deliver packages by drones but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what people are working with the Civil Aviation Authority to get permissions in place to do things that everyone who feels all that stuff quite novel. It's getting to the point now where some applications of drones are becoming the norm and they're quite dull and boring. In that sense most construction projects around the UK, be it construction for roads or anything else, are using drones to make the process quicker. You don't hear that as much but it's making your major construction projects a lot quicker to do. So it's good that they're coming a bit more mundane now; everyone just goes 'oh that's a drone' rather than being shocked to see one nowadays. They are now just part of regular life.
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