09 Nov sees.ai led consortium wins grant to accelerate remote inspection and monitoring of industrial sites by drone during COVID-19 crisis
Enterprise command and control solution provider sees.ai, leading a consortium of eight partners that includes NATS, Vodafone, Skanska and Sellafield has won a share of £30 million from the Future Flight Challenge, a proportion of which has been allocated to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation.
COVID-19 has seriously impacted our industrial and engineering industries. In construction alone, total output plummeted 45% in April resulting in fears that half a million jobs could be lost*. Society has a deep need for these industries: in 2018 they employed 19% of the UK workforce and generated 23% of UK turnover. And everyday – notwithstanding the pandemic – construction progress needs to be managed; infrastructure assets require constant attention; and components need to be monitored. Leaving this work undone can not only be costly, but deadly.
To address this need, the consortium is developing an advanced drone system that will facilitate better and faster exchange of information between offsite and onsite teams; help increase productivity and health & safety of onsite workers; and reduce the number of visits to site overall.
The solution teams human pilots operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in a control room with highly-automated drones on the client site to enable the remote execution of complex, close-quarter missions on industrial sites. This solution unlocks the remote capture of aerial data at enterprise scale for the first time.
NATs (the UK’s main air navigation provider) and Vodafone are technical partners for the project. sees.ai’s solution will be operated by Terra Drone (one of the world’s leading drone service providers) for tests with end-clients Skanska; Skanska Costain STRABAG working in partnership with HS2; and Atkins. Sellafield’s in-house drone team will test the sees.ai solution on their site. These companies see the value in aerial intelligence but have been unable to access it at the scale and quality required. For them, the sees.ai solution is a potential way forward.
sees.ai CEO, John McKenna, said:
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues, there is mounting pressure to keep our construction sites, industrial sites and infrastructure running, while protecting people’s health. Our solution will bridge the gap between offsite and onsite teams, allowing crucial work to continue and increasing productivity, without risking people’s safety.”
Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director said:
“At this very challenging time for the international aviation industry, it is a great testament to the UK’s drive and ambition that we have had such a strong response to the first funded Future Flight competition. The breadth, quality and creativity of the bids has been exceptional and the economic and social benefits offered are very significant. The projects we are now launching will position the UK strongly to drive the 3rd revolution in aviation.”
*Source: Federation of Master Builders
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sees.ai is a UK-based Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) pioneer, developing the leading Enterprise BVLOS Command & Control Solution for drone service providers. sees.ai is the only entity selected into both the CAA Regulatory Sandbox (one of only ten entities alongside Boeing and Amazon) and the UK Government Drone Pathfinder backed by the Department for Transport, the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy and the CAA. https://www.sees.ai/about-us.
sees.ai was founded in 2017 by four experienced engineers, ex. Arup, Apple, CERN, McLaren and hedge funds – winners of 1 Formula One World Championship and 2 America’s Cups.
ABOUT THE CONSORTIUM:
The consortium is comprised of eight companies in total (including sees.ai) made up of technical contributors, drone service providers and end-clients. The technical contributors are: NATS and Vodafone. The drone service provider is Terra Drone – one of the world’s) leading drone service providers. The end-clients are: Atkins; Skanska; Skanska Costain STRABAG working in partnership with HS2; and Sellafield.
See below for more information on the contributions of each partner to this consortium.
ABOUT UK RESEARCH & INNOVATION:
UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. For more information visit www.ukri.org
ABOUT THE INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY CHALLENGE FUND:
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together the UK’s world leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. The fund was created to provide funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years. It was designed to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. It is run by UK Research and Innovation.
ABOUT THE DRONE SOLUTIONS FOR COVID-19 COMPETITION:
The aim of the competition is to support UK registered organisations who are looking to conduct short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. By fast-tracking innovation, the UK will be better placed to maintain employment levels and a competitive position in global markets, and to make the UK more resilient to similar disruption.
MORE ON THE CONSORTIUM PARTNERS:
NATS (Not grant claiming):
NATS Holdings is the main Air Navigation Service Provider in the United Kingdom. The business is split into two parts. NERL is the sole provider of civilian enroute air traffic control over the UK and operates under licence from the CAA, charged with permitting access to airspace on the part of all users, whilst making the most efficient overall use of airspace; NSL competes for contracts in the free market to provide air traffic control at airports in the UK and overseas, as well as providing related services including engineering, consultancy, information services and training.
Vodafone (Not grant claiming):
Vodafone Group is a British multinational telecommunications conglomerate, with headquarters in London. It predominantly operates services in the regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. Among mobile operator groups globally, Vodafone ranked 4th in the number of mobile customers as of 2018.
Terra Drone Europe:
Terra Drone Europe is part of the Terra Drone Group, one of the world’s largest providers
of commercial drone services with over 250 employees in more than 25 countries. Terra
Drone is a provider of geographic data acquisition, industrial inspections, and high-end
aerial imagery using unmanned aircraft (UAVs). We bundle extensive knowledge and
experience in geodesy, topographic surveying, CVI and thermal inspections, aerial
imagery and 3D visualisations into one company. By taking quality and safety seriously, we ensure a successful and safe execution of operations in the challenging environments of our clients, both on- and offshore. We operate worldwide and have offices in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
END CLIENTS (Not grant claiming):
Supporting use cases they have put forward for testing:
● Skanska (Construction – buildings)
● Skanska Costain STRABAG working in partnership with HS2 (Construction – rail)
● Atkins (road)
END CLIENT OPERATORS (Not grant claiming):
End Clients with their own in-house drone teams:
● Sellafield (nuclear)