The technology needed to drive delivery drones is already in existence, but laws have yet to catch up. To help take drone technology to the next step of mainstream adoption, the U.K. is currently in the process of establishing what could be the world’s first commercial drone corridor. This airspace will be available to any fully automated drones flying beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), so long as it doesn’t require specialist hardware and conforms to basic technical regulations.
The unrestricted airspace — called the “Arrow Drone Zone” — will be located in the town of Reading, to the west of London, in the Thames Valley. The Drone Zone will be approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and 500 meters (1,640 feet) wide. While it is referred to as a, well, zone for drones, it is technically unrestricted open airspace, meaning that drones and general aviation vehicles (read: airplanes and helicopters) will share the same space.
Plans have been submitted to the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority, and, from the sound of things, the project is being fast-tracked — with “necessary infrastructure deployment” beginning within weeks. The site will be managed by drone airspace company Altitude Angel.
“Project Arrow and Arrow Drone Zones open the door to the next level in the evolution of [unmanned traffic management] and automated drone operations,” Richard Parker, CEO and founder of Altitude Angel, said in a statement. “The size of this step cannot be underestimated: BVLOS automated flight in unrestricted airspace is a very significant barrier to overcome in order to realize the vision of mass-commercial drone usage.”
While this is certainly a boundary-pushing development when it comes to the use of drones, it’s one of many initiatives around the world that are helping to prepare drone technology for prime time (and the preparedness of the general public along with it). Around the world, tests are already being carried out by leaders in fields like drone delivery to prove the feasibility of the tech. Should all go according to plan with this Drone Zone, it hopefully won’t be long before similar airspaces start opening up elsewhere. The future of your airborne Amazon deliveries might just depend on it.
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