Flylogix Ltd., the Beyond the Horizon unmanned aircraft company, has launched a North Sea drone initiative in collaboration with oil and gas multinational Total SA, NATS, the U.K.’s leading provider of air traffic navigation services, and the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).

The project aims to overcome the challenges associated with drone inspection activities in the North Sea and allow commercial operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) easier access to U.K. controlled airspace for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

The four-partner collaboration is developing and testing a concept for drone operations that will allow UAV operators to react within hours of an inspection request and enable routine BVLOS in the North Sea. The project involves extensive consultation with stakeholders and aims to establish a leading example of safe and reliable drone operations alongside existing users in controlled airspace.

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Currently, approvals for carrying out UAV operations inside U.K. controlled airspace can take up to three months, with requests considered on a one-by-one basis resulting in the granting of single flight permissions. This makes the planning of inspection and logistic services extremely slow.

The collaboration’s strength stems from the combination of FlyLogix’s unique BVLOS capability, Total’s leadership in robotic and autonomous systems for the energy industry, NATS’ expertise in unified traffic management, and the OGTC’s unparalleled position of influence with the UK offshore industry.

“We are delighted to partner with Total, NATS and OGTC to enable routine beyond the horizon unmanned aircraft operations in the North Sea. This project enables us to conduct daily inspections and emissions measurement without the cost and risk of sending deploying personnel offshore,” Charles Tavner, executive chairman of FlyLogix, said.

“We recognize that such autonomous technology can bring huge benefit to the oil, gas and renewables sector and we believe we can help unmanned aerial vehicles and current airspace users operate safely in an integrated North Sea environment,” Daryl Heaselgrave, NATS general manager Aberdeen Airport, said.