Drones may soon be able to fly beyond their operators' line of sight, opening up possibilities for retailers such as Amazon to use them for deliveries.
According to the Times, an overhaul of the current air traffic control system could see drone deliveries launched with in a year.
Currently, drones deliveries are restricted as they have to be flown within sight of human operators, however the development of new technology will be able to track small unmanned devices at low altitude, enabling drones to fly beyond their operators' line of sight.
Nats, the national air traffic control service, said the system announced yesterday would allow drones to safely share Britain’s airspace with conventional aircraft.
Andy Sage, head of drones at Nats, told The Times that the system would be trialed by the end of the year, and that routine out-of-sight drone operations could possibly start next year or in 2020.
“This is about being able to transmit a drone’s location or intended flight to allow it to be seen,” he said. “It would be a critical component in moving away from line of sight operations to begin operating beyond the line of sight."
He added: “Without this sort of solution, it would be very difficult for commercial drone operators to come to the UK and undertake more complex operations safely in our busy airspace.”
Nats said also said that it has signed a deal with aviation technology company Altitude Angel, to develop new technology to track drones’ location or intended flight. This technology will be integrated with conventional air traffic control systems to enable controllers to see drones and allow them to be operated alongside manned aircraft for the first time.
Sage added: “This is an important step. The system will not enable full integration [of drones and aircraft] in itself but it is a necessary pre-requisite for these types of services.”
Last year, it was revealed that Amazon is working out ways to parachute packages from its delivery drones to people’s homes. The e-commerce giant filed a patent in the US for a delivery system, which can be “implemented to forcefully propel a package from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), while the UAV is in motion”.