UK advanced drone system wins new Government funding to protect workers in the construction industry during Covid and beyond

Advance drone system sees.ai, leading a consortium of eight partners that includes global leader Skanska, 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.

The funding demonstrates the value sees.ai’s technology can bring to the industry to tackle current challenges.

UK based sees.ai was founded in 2017 by four leading engineers, from Apple, CERN, McClaren and hedge funds, with sector leading experience, including the delivery of a Formula One World Championship and two America’s Cups. The technology is an enterprise command and control service provider, able to support industrial and engineering industries to overcome modern challenges to their productivity.

COVID-19 has seriously impacted industrial and engineering industries. In construction alone, total output plummeted 45% in April resulting in fears that half a million jobs could be lost1. 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.”