Jer­sey has a future vision. A vision which encap­su­lates drones being deployed for search-and-res­cue oper­a­tions and fish­eries patrols lead­ing lat­er to eVTOLs fly­ing peo­ple between the Chan­nel Islands, reports A del­e­ga­tion from Ports of Jer­sey vis­it­ed Guernsey last week to pro­vide a tech­ni­cal brief­ing on the planned tri­al, which is expect­ed to begin in spring 2024.

Last year, it was announced that Jer­sey had been cho­sen as a test­bed for the UK-gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Agile Inte­grat­ed Air­space Sys­tem (ALIAS) pro­gramme, which will see drones used to tri­al cut­ting-edge air­craft-guid­ance tech­nol­o­gy. The ulti­mate aim is for autonomous unmanned air­craft to be used across the UK and Europe.

Explain­ing why Ports of Jer­sey became involved in the project, direc­tor Robin MacRae com­ment­ed, “We see ALIAS as a great oppor­tu­ni­ty, not just for Ports, but for the Chan­nel Islands. It will enable us to move essen­tial med­ical sup­plies, bol­ster our search-and-res­cue capa­bil­i­ty and even­tu­al­ly pro­vide air taxi ser­vices with the Chan­nel Islands.”

He con­tin­ued, “Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is also impor­tant to us. We want to make swift progress on the decar­bon­i­sa­tion of avi­a­tion, so we are keen to pur­sue oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with like-mind­ed part­ners.”

Robin MacRae

In ear­ly 2022, Ports of Jer­sey pub­lished the “Ports Plan­et and Peo­ple Plan”, set­ting out what it says is an ambi­tious series of goals to tack­le the grow­ing cli­mate emer­gency and the threat to local bio­di­ver­si­ty.

MacRae added, “We believe that the best way we can help build the future that Jer­sey deserves is by tak­ing a lead­ing role in devel­op­ing a sus­tain­able future for our island.”

Dur­ing the ALIAS tri­al, the drones which have a two-metre wingspan and weigh between 10 and 20kg, will be flown with­in a 60 sq/km of low-traf­fic air­space about half a mile off­shore and away from nature reserves. The air­craft, which will use spe­cial­ist guid­ance soft­ware from tech­nol­o­gy firm Volant Auton­o­my, will fly below 3,000 feet, a height well under com­mer­cial-air­craft flight paths. Ports of Jer­sey has con­firmed the drones will be fit­ted with cam­eras to film the tri­als, but that no images will be tak­en of Islanders.

Drones have already been used in var­i­ous parts of the UK to deliv­er sup­plies or assist in emer­gen­cies. The craft trans­port­ed chemother­a­py and pre­scrip­tion drugs to the Isle of Wight dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, so that res­i­dents were not required to trav­el to the main­land.

The ALIAS Project

The UK Coast­guard has also tri­alled the use of drones for search-and-res­cue mis­sions, while the Roy­al Mail is plan­ning to deploy a fleet to deliv­er items to Shet­land and oth­er remote island com­mu­ni­ties.

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