On 22 October, members of the EU Internal Market, Employment and Infrastructure Sub-Committee visited Cranfield University as part of their current inquiry into the civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), often referred to as 'drones'.
The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, Professor Philip John met the Committee and started the visit with a series of short lectures on issues related to the inquiry. Members were able to ask leading researchers about the opportunities and challenges to commercial RPAS operations and recent developments in 'sense and avoid' technology. Members were also given a short presentation about how RPAS are currently used in accident investigations.
The visit culminated with a live demonstration of an octo-copter, gathering film evidence from a mocked-up aircraft accident. Standing at a safe distance, the Committee was able to see the RPAS hover over the debris for a few minutes before being landed by the operator.
Baroness O'Cathain, chair of the Sub-Committee, said, "It's been a fascinating visit, and it has enabled us to see up close how drones work and how they might be incorporated into civilian life. The insight we have been given from the team at Cranfield has been extremely useful for our inquiry and we expect to incorporate much of what we have learnt into the committee’s final report, expected early next year."