Skyports Drone Services and Makutu Successfully Test BVLOS Electric Drones for Water Quality Monitoring

In a collaborative effort, Skyports Drone Services and Makutu have conducted successful test flights for an innovative drone inspection service designed to enhance water quality monitoring for UK water companies. This collaboration integrates Skyports Drone Services’ expertise in remote drone operations and winch technology with Makutu’s water testing solution, with a pilot study initiated in partnership with Northumbrian Water.

The test flights highlight the capabilities of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) electric drone operations, offering an automated approach to water quality surveys. The service aims to improve access to challenging areas, reduce carbon footprint, gather extensive data over larger areas, and accelerate results.

This service provides an alternative to current labor-intensive data collection processes, which typically involve manual water collection and transportation to a central lab for testing. Particularly in rural locations, vast expanses, or adverse weather conditions, the traditional process proves difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming.

Skyports Drone Services utilized its Speedbird Aero aircraft, equipped with specialist winch technology, during the initial phase of the flights. The aircraft carried Makutu’s unique water sensor technology to testing locations, lowering the sensor into the water to collect test samples. The data collected is transmitted back to Northumbrian Water in near real-time for analysis.

The highly automated aircraft eliminates the need to return to base between tests and can collect data from multiple locations in a single outing, all on a single battery charge.

The proof-of-concept flights, conducted in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Bishop Auckland, and Blyth in the northeast of the UK, focused on testing the collaborative solution by Skyports Drone Services and Makutu, with support from visual ground observers. The next phase will see the scaling of operations, with Skyports Drone Services remotely conducting BVLOS sample collections.

Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services, emphasized the project’s commitment to sustainability, safety, and access through electric drone services. He stated, “The unique solution we’ve developed with Makutu provides water companies with critical real-time data, enabling better monitoring, maintenance, and faster response to issues.”

Richard Warneford, Wastewater Director at Northumbrian Water, expressed excitement about the potential impact on water quality monitoring. He said, “There’s a lot of hard work gone into understanding how UAV technology can be used to collect data efficiently, and these successful test flights have proven the validity of it as part of our huge water quality monitoring programme.”

James Sumsion, Chief Executive Officer of Makutu, highlighted the collaborative project’s significance in environmental stewardship and technological innovation. He said, “This project is an excellent example of how cutting-edge technology can be leveraged for the greater good. We’re excited to see how this pilot study evolves and contributes to setting new standards in environmental monitoring and sustainability across the country.”