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UAVs: Unlocking positive transformation in the world

Aviation

In partnership with Cranfield University, our informative new report highlights major sustainability advantages of utilising UAVs, alongside impressive efficiency benefits for the commercial, humanitarian and medical sectors. 

A comprehensive new report, UAVs: Unlocking positive transformation in the world, produced by Inmarsat in partnership with Cranfield University, is another boost for the burgeoning unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) sector as it seeks to demonstrate its vast, transformational potential.

With sustainability and green strategies growing in importance post-Covid, Inmarsat’s first publication in this industry found that commercial UAVs have the potential to almost half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of urban freight transport compared to small light commercial vehicles (LCVs), providing an unprecedented opportunity for the logistics industry to reduce its environmental impact.

Using its own modelling and primary data resources, researchers from Cranfield University compared CO2 emissions omitted by both UAVs and small LCVs during freight delivery. The results of which demonstrated that use of UAVs can result in up to a 47% reduction in CO2 emissions than LCV delivery over the same distance and with the same weight of cargo. The analysis also takes into account the impact of reduced traffic congestion and lower levels of air and noise pollution as a result.

To download the full report, please click below.

With over 3.8 billion parcel deliveries in the UK alone during pre-pandemic 2019, almost all involving diesel powered road vehicles, UAVs have real potential to replace a proportion of this traffic within urban and city areas, thereby reducing road congestion and environmental pollution.

“Environmental sustainability is one of the most pressing issues confronting modern society,” explained Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat’s Senior Director of UAVs and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), who contributes an engaging foreword in the report. “Currently, freight transport accounts for approximately 22% of pollutant gas emissions in urban ecosystems, with cars and vans representing 16% of the total Greenhouse Gas emissions. It is clear that an alternative form of transportation is needed to help reduce the environmental impact and UAVs provide an optimal solution.”

The Inmarsat-commissioned research, which also examines a wealth of other positive societal and commercial possibilities unlocked by UAVs, was hailed as significant during its launch at World ATM Congress 2021. Organisations that embrace these new technologies stand to gain a fundamental commercial advantage, suggest the authors, such as operational and supply chain efficiencies in an array of industries, including agriculture and logistics, to name a few.

Elsewhere the report highlights how UAVs can be a compelling force for good. Accelerating blue-light emergency service responses, providing humanitarian support at global disasters and the surveillance of wild animals to protect them from poachers, are just a few of the examples cited. Additionally, it explores how UAV services have been used for the delivery of medical supplies between hospitals in Oban and the Isle of Mull, reducing delivery times by up to 30 minutes – and every second counts when it comes to saving lives. 

The report concludes by emphasising the need for the UAV sector to collaborate in order to meet the regulatory challenges that lie ahead – particularly when it comes to UAVs flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). This challenge necessitates the need for fast and reliable communication throughout the UAV ecosystem to enable the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into commercial airspace.

As the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, Inmarsat is uniquely placed to deliver airspace integration with its recently launched Velaris UAV connectivity solution, working side-by-side with global regulators, air navigation service providers, UAV operators and an international network of partners. Powered by the Inmarsat ELERA satellite network, Velaris will deliver new digital automation capabilities, allowing operators to send their UAVs on long distance flights and access applications, including real-time monitoring, to ensure safe integration with other air traffic users.

“Velaris utilises our vast experience in air traffic management and aviation safety over the past three decades, plus our successful track record in BVLOS communication,” concludes Spouncer. “We’re also working with numerous partners to develop next-generation UAV terminals that deliver smaller, more cost-effective multi-datalink solutions. All of this makes Inmarsat uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst for the safe and rapid growth of the UAV ecosystem. As the UAV industry develops and evolves, so will Velaris, thanks to our ambitious and fully-funded technology roadmap.”