Coptrz Managing director Steve Coulson joins Sanchez Payne on BBC Radio Leeds to discuss the benefits of drones both during and post Covid-19 and to spread our motto; “Drones For Good”.
In this blog you will learn about;
- Drones For Medical Deliveries
- Drones For Humanitarian Missions
- Drones For Search & Rescue
- Drone Technology Adoption
As we all know we are living through a very very odd and weird time. It’s unprecedented. And these kinds of problems require people to think a little bit out of the box and come up with some creative solutions. Now the green light has been given by secretary of state Grant Shapps for drones to start delivering medical supplies in the UK. Now this is going to be all new for everybody, so we want to know how will this work? And why drones? Why has this come up as a suggestion? Well managing director of commercial drones company Coptrz Steve Coulson is here to tell us a little bit more of what it is all about.
Hi Steve, and welcome to the show.
Good evening, how are you?
I’m very good thank you. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this – I don’t now if I’m just being a big kid and I’m just thinking of loads of movies I’ve seen. But for anyone who’s listening, who might be a bit confused. When we say Drone, what are we talking about exactly?
Well a drone is in essence an aircraft where the pilot is on the ground and controlling the aircraft remotely. And that can range from the little things you get at Christmas that only weigh a few grams up to something that weighs several hundred kilos and can operate thousands of miles away from the pilot.
Wow. Well that already sounds incredible. In this case would it be controlled by a pilot or would it be automated – How would that work?
I’m not 100% sure of all the details but having worked on similar projects this would be flown from a ground control station. I believe in Southampton. And it is in fact a spin off from the university of Southampton. The ground control team will pilot this fixed wing aircraft. This aircraft would be akin to a microlight aircraft that you’d see at a leisure aerodrome. It will take off from Southampton, piloted by the ground control team, fly out over the Solent to the Isle of Wight and deposit the medical supplies to the hospital near Newport.
Do you think this announcement is just the start in using drones in the Covid-19 plan?
Well looking at other countries yes, I do. They (drones) do have a very beneficial part to play in lots of different areas. Beyond the obvious, like medical supply delivery, getting things to the front line. To the clean up operation, disinfecting areas. It’s not very convenient or quick to get humans doing it. But also, for getting information to people who may not be listening to the news etc. As well as people who may not be abiding by the rules, having nighttime gatherings where drones can use their thermal cameras to identify people who may not be toeing the line like the rest of us.
So there’s lots of things that drones are capable of doing in a crisis like this – What’s the situation for actually implementing them, are there safety hurdles that we need to overcome?
There are quite tight safety legislations in place for operating commercial drones and that in essence limits you to a 500m horizontal distance away from the pilot and a 400ft operational ceiling. Obviously, the drone that is flying to the Isle of Wight is operating outside of that. And you can get special permissions for what is called BVLOS – Beyond visual line of sight. And I know that companies have operated these drones at 10, 20, 30 kilometres away over land and sea. The police have been issued with more wide-ranging powers and the ability to use drones inside the ranges because of Covid-19 by The CAA. Because people have seen that they can offer a beneficial aid to the efforts that are going on.
Now you’ve touched on some really good points there on how drones can be used positively. Why have in the past drones had a bad image?
People associate them first and foremost with the military drones, attacking military targets from remote locations on the other side of the planet and all the connotations within that of collateral damage. And then you go to the other end of the spectrum and you have the toy drones that people may be putting up equipped with cameras and invading people’s privacy. But the people who are really serious about drones and operate them for commercial purposes, well we have a mantra of; “Drones For Good”. They can save lives. Norfolk Police last year, (with a drone that we provided them) utilised a thermal camera to locate a pensioner that had gone missing. Ground teams had been searching all day and they were close to giving up hope, but they put a drone up and within 12 minutes they had located the pensioner stuck in a bog. The search and rescue capabilities are amazing, and they have the bonus of being more environmentally friendly too. Instead of driving somewhere, putting a helicopter up and you’re also removing people from dangerous situations. I think as awful as this virus is, with many examples of technology becoming commonplace now for example; virtual meetings. We will start to see the benefits of drones and they will be used more and more for positive purposes.
So we can expect to see them more and more, but when this initiative takes place. As and when, could this be the tides changing for the bad image that drones previously had and people will start to see just how much good drones can do?
I think you need those use cases. You need the authorities to give the right organisations the ability to use drones more and more for good purposes. We’re talking to the United Nations at the moment with regards to the world food programme. One of the side effects of Covid-19 will be the famines that it will cause throughout the third world and the world food programme are wanting to use drones to aid the humanitarian effort. I think that as people begin to see drones used for good purposes, they’ll make a differentiation between drones being used to annoy people or military drones and see the amounts of good that they can do.
Steve, this all sounds amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing the potential and what comes out of this and I’m sure you are too. There were so many great points that you touched on with the potential for good that drones can do and with Covid-19 we want to have anything at our disposal that we can use to help so many people that deserve it. Steve, thank you so much for being on the show and we’re looking forward to hearing the updates. But most of all make sure you’re staying safe.
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