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Driving drone flight: The future of drones and their propulsion systems

29 May 2024

Although legislation currently holds back widespread commercial deployment of drones, trials are showing the potential for cargo delivery, as well as applications such as inspection and security. Key to achieving flight safety, as well as power efficiency, are drone propulsion systems. maxon’s engineering expert for aerospace applications, Andrew Gibson, discusses the status of the drone market and the future requirements for drone propulsion systems.

Last summer, Royal Mail began the trial of drone delivery for payloads of up to 6kg in the Orkney Islands. While the geography of the Orkneys lends itself to the advantages of drone flight, and the sparse population reduces safety concerns, lightweight deliveries by drone have also been taking place in Dublin. Drone firm Manna has been delivering products like groceries and medical supplies to homes in the Blanchardstown suburb since February this year. 

Despite the success of these trials, a key reason why the commercial use of drones hasn’t been more widespread is the inherent safety concerns of flight taking place close to people and infrastructure. These concerns are backed up by legislation on drone flight. In general, in the UK, the current ruling prevents beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) unmanned flight, meaning that the drone pilot must be able to see the aircraft and the surrounding airspace continually and unaided.

While aviation safety regulators in the UK, as well as Europe and the US, are cautious about relaxing the rules, the UK Government is currently reviewing the potential of allowing BVLOS for certain purposes, such as infrastructure inspection. 

Read the full article in DPA's June 2024 issue

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