UK's Civil Aviation Authority hashing out rules for crash-proof cargo pods on drones

Project wins £50k from government

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is drawing up guidelines so that crash-proof cargo containers can be attached to drones to transport medical items such as blood samples and vaccines.

The CAA is working with the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to create a set of minimum safety standards if a drone carrying a container were to be involved in an accident.

The project was given £50,000 by the government as part of a £3.7m funding handout spread around 21 projects announced recently.

If suitable guidelines for an "approved crash protected container" for "dangerous goods" proves successful, it could open the door to commercial operators developing new services.

"The dangerous goods carried could include blood samples and vaccines, but also consumer products such as batteries and cosmetics," said the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in its blurb confirming the award.

This recent funding is the latest government push to develop drone technology while trying to ensure safety for people on terra firma.

Much of the legislation in place at the moment deals with safety concerns should a drone fail mid-flight and minimising risk to people below. This latest project takes those concerns one step further to ensure the structural integrity of any cargo that might fall foul of an unscheduled and bumpy landing.

In April, West Sussex-based became the first company in the UK to get CAA approval to test routine beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

It is significant because if remote flying – rather than in-the-line-of-sight piloting – gets the nod from regulators, it could potentially pave the way for a new market to develop in logistics. Add on a crash-proof cargo pod and it becomes clear where this testing is potentially heading.

Of course, that's not to say that testing isn't already going on. Last year, remote-control drones were used to deliver coronavirus testing kits to a remote Scottish hospital after being granted special permission from the CAA. ®

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