TRA Sandbox Announcement,

In collaboration with Cranfield Airport, Project BLUEPRINT has been selected to take part in the UK (United Kingdom) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Temporary Reserved Area (TRA) Regulatory Sandbox, which will allow us to work closely with the subject matter experts within the CAA to progress towards our objectives of successfully trialling integrated BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) drone operations within UK airspace. We are thrilled to be part of the sandbox, which is coordinated by the CAA’s Innovation Advisory Service.

The aims of the Sandbox are to:

Demonstrate and validate specific technologies, airspace management procedures, and flight operation procedures that are needed to enable the safe, efficient, and managed integration of BVLOS drone operations and crewed aircraft.

Enable the CAA to validate the use of the airspace policy concept with real world use cases to evidence how it supports and enables the accommodation phase of integrated operations within a Temporary Reserved Area (i.e. accommodation phase).

Through the TRA, enable participants to scale beyond segregation towards integration of BVLOS drone flights with crewed aircraft (i.e., integration phase).

About Project BLUEPRINT:

Project BLUEPRINT was one of the winning consortium projects of the UK Research & Innovation Future Flight Challenge Phase 3. The team is led by Neuron Innovations, and includes Ebeni, Cranfield Airport, Cranfield University, University of Southampton, Dronecloud, Anra Technologies, Sky-Drones, Distributed Avionics and Future Aerial Innovations.

The aim of project BLUEPRINT is to provide regulators, technology providers and operators with a “blueprint” for UK-wide rollout of BVLOS drone operations, which can be commercialised at scale. The blueprint will allow stakeholders to design, plan and build routine and persistent BVLOS drone capabilities that can be exported on a European level.  Project Blueprint is working with Cranfield Airport, the CAA and other TRA Sandbox partners, to develop a TRA BVLOS test environment at Cranfield Airport, which will enable drones and crewed aircraft to co-exist in a safe and efficient operating environment through the: 

  • Deployment of a low-cost ground-based detect and avoid network,
  • Development and integration of open-access UTM (UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Traffic Management) architecture into Cranfield Airport,
  • Production of six BLUEPRINTs to scale this concept of drone zone operation across the UK; applicable to specific category drone operations, both multi-rotor, single rotor and fixed wing drones up to approximately 500kg.  

The project intends to complete research & development flights within the TRA to reflect the rotary and fixed wing use cases and related end user benefits during the sandbox. This is to provide evidence to the regulator on the safety of ADS-B enabled BVLOS flight operations within TRA and aims to validate that ADS-B TRAs (Temporary Reserved Area) are effective in integrating all airspace users safely. 

BLUEPRINT and the TRA Sandbox

The TRA will enable the live operational testing of operations and technology and will help validate safety risk mitigating evidence and identified standards, and which will enable the CAA to influence regulatory guidelines and acceptable means of compliance (AMC). These can be aligned with other TRA Sandbox users to ensure an increased set of test data and therefore improved validation. In turn, this scales integrated BVLOS sustainability by enabling regulatory guidance through trialling and testing. By flying within a TRA Sandbox, this will help BLUEPRINT to: 

  • trial the airspace that has been developed to determine whether this provides inclusivity to all airspace users 
  • learn from the trial operations and develop effective governance to manage aviation stakeholders  
  • test and trial the detect and avoid solution that has been developed, make observations, and determine lessons learnt 
  • test the integration and success of a UTM minimum viable product 
  • safely integrate two use case drones within an airport environment 

Blueprint for the Future: “Drone Zones” Set to Revolutionise UK Airspace by 2024

Dronecloud are one of the key partners in the UKRI Future Flight Challenge Project BLUEPRINT, delivering Operational Management and UAS Traffic Management services through the Dronecloud Platform.

In a major step towards realising the multi-billion-pound potential of drone technology in the UK, Project BLUEPRINT, a consortium of UK innovators, has unveiled its ambitious plans to integrate drones and crewed aircraft into the same airspace.

Drones have long faced challenges in terms of safety, privacy, and security concerns, resulting in regulators being risk averse in approving their widespread use. However, the UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has been instrumental in bringing drone technology closer to becoming a reality with the introduction of temporary reserved areas (TRAs), or “Drone Zones.”

Traditionally, drones have been restricted to flying in closed-off or ‘segregated’ volumes of airspace to ensure the safety of other airspace users. However, the new policy concept introduced by the CAA and realised through Project BLUEPRINT aims to develop a roadmap for areas of airspace where drones and other aircraft can safely share the skies, paving the way for widespread commercial adoption and exploitation.

Project BLUEPRINT is aligned with the goals of the Future of Flight Industry Group and funded by UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI’s) Future Flight Challenge, a £300 million program aimed at boosting innovations in the UK aviation sector. The consortium consists of over 10 partner companies, including two leading aerospace universities (Cranfield and Southampton), two UAS traffic management providers (Dronecloud and ANRA Technologies), Cranfield Airport, two avionics and platform manufacturers (Distributed Avionics and Sky-Drones), a drone operator (Future Aerial Innovations), and Ebeni, one of the UK’s leading aviation safety consultancies.

Project trials are set to demonstrate how drones and crewed aircraft can safely operate in the same airspace without requiring a drone pilot to spot aircraft. James Dunthorne, project lead and CEO of Neuron Innovations, a low-altitude aircraft tracking company, said, “We are excited to share our consortium plans and strategy with all industry so that these new policy concepts can help us all to prove drones and aircraft can co-exist in the same airspace without adding safety risks.”

The successful implementation of this project will not only enable the UK to roll out commercial drone use cases at scale but also serve as a model for other countries to follow, further solidifying the UK’s position as a leader in regulatory innovation and aviation.

With the launch of this new policy concept, the CAA is developing its understanding of shared airspace.  By working with industry to ensure a safe and scalable approach, it can put the UK in a leading position to be a world leader in drone technology. Projects such as BLUEPRINT offer a way to gather the evidence needed to do this

Representative from the CAA

Project BLUEPRINT is poised to transform the UK’s airspace and revolutionise the way drones are integrated into daily life. By 2024, the UK is expected to witness the widespread national rollout of drone zones, making it an integral part of various industries and applications. The project’s success will serve as a blueprint for other countries to follow and strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in aviation and regulatory innovation.

Project RISE

Project rise was successfully completed in November 2021; another step towards enabling the future scale of bvlos and other flights in non-segregated airspace.

Project RISE was within Phase 2 of the Future Flight Challenge, funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Dronecloud led a consortium composed of key industry partners, including Sky-DronesCranfield UniversityFrequentis and Skyports.

Project RISE was focused on the approvals process and traffic management for flying within airspace controlled by an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), integrating across a combined stack of independent software and hardware. 


“Unlocking the future of drone operations through integration.”

The project outputs allow automated transfers of information and communications between a drone operator and the airspace controller via a Ground Control Station (GCS), Uncrewed Traffic Management Service Provider (UTMSP) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) interface.

Through integrations between these systems, we can share automatically electronic ID, flight telemetry data, alerts and other communications, with a view to developing full Network Remote ID (Net-RID). This streamlines approval and traffic management, breaking down barriers to scale. At the same time, it readies the software platforms towards participating in all UTM regulatory frameworks, such as the UK’s Open Access UTM Framework and U-Space.

Rather than creating a proprietary closed stack of UTM services within a single platform, RISE demonstrates an open approach to delivering a range of UTM services across multiple integrated platforms in a flexible and inclusive way. Integrations were delivered through open standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), allowing other GCS, drone manufacturers and providers of UTM services to connect in through these integrations. 

Cranfield University completed an analysis of radio link connectivity in a UAS system to highlight the factors which affect connectivity performance needed for BVLOS, together with mitigation plans to improve it.

Read the Cranfield Report on Radio Link Analysis here

Project Outcomes

The project produced a proof of concept for automated integration of systems needed for planning and carrying out BVLOS and other flights in non-segregated controlled airspace, including achieving necessary approvals from airspace controllers. Our example use-case is an airport environment where ATC needs to simultaneously control both drones and traditional air traffic. At the end of the project, we carried out field trials at Cranfield Airport in the UK.

After Project RISE, user accounts and aircraft can be linked between Sky-Drones GCS and Dronecloud, feeding electronic ID and telemetry data from Sky-Drones to Dronecloud. If a flight is planned within an area requiring approval via Frequentis’ smartSIS, flight plans are sent automatically by Dronecloud to smartSIS for approval. Approval status and alerts are tracked and displayed to the Dronecloud operator. Flights can be seen and tracked in Dronecloud’s Live View, with a message centre and interactive buttons to allow a pilot or flight operations coordinator to carry out two-way integrated communication with the relevant ANSP. All significant events and communications are logged.

Field Trials

Multiple scenarios were tested successfully, some with more than one drone in the air at the same time. Multi-rotor and fixed-wing aircraft were used.


An inspection flight and a delivery flight were separately planned in Dronecloud for two aircraft to fly at the same time but not spatially overlapping. Dronecloud automatically sent flight plans to smartSIS for approval. ATC were happy with both flights and approved them in smartSIS. Both pilots could see in Dronecloud that their flights were approved, and so requested take-off. ATC approved take-off for both in smartSIS, and the flights commenced.

1. During flight, the inspection flight left its approved boundary. This potentially caused a hazard to the delivery aircraft. 

2. smartSIS detected non-conformance and automatically sent an alert to the inspection pilot. ATC sent an alert to the delivery pilot from smartSIS to Dronecloud, asking to loiter in place.

3. ATC could see in smartSIS when the inspection flight acknowledged and returned to its flight plan. ATC sent a new message to the delivery pilot from smartSIS to Dronecloud to confirm now safe to proceed. Both flights proceeded with their plans.

4. A crewed aircraft requested from ATC an emergency landing. ATC pushed a button in smartSIS that set an area-wide No Drone Zone (NDZ) and automatically sent an alert to all drone pilots in Dronecloud to land immediately. Both drone pilots acknowledged and landed their aircraft.

5. The crewed aircraft was able to land safely in clear airspace. 

Network Rail

Network Rail chooses Dronecloud flight management system to help manage their entire drone operation

“With the number of drone flights at the level it is and only going to climb higher in the future, we needed a flight management system to manage the load to ensure we are as efficient and safe as possible. It will show drone pilots if another drone is operating nearby, as well as alert the pilot to other potential ground or air hazards in the area of the flight.”

Rikke Carmichael, Head of Air Operations.

When an organisation responsible for the rail infrastructure across an entire country put drones to work at scale, we see the true value of a flight management system that enables it.

Network Rail have spent several years developing one of the largest drone teams in Europe. During this process they have had a great deal of experience of both the benefits the technology brings and the challenges their operations team face on a daily basis. This experience informed the tender they put out in mid 2020 with the aim of finding the best flight management system on which to build their requirements.

No software currently existed to meet the exact requirements of Network rail but through a rigorous tender process, Dronecloud was chosen as the best FMS on which to develop these requirements. Thankfully, the knowledge and vision of the team at Network rail means that most, if not all of the development required will be beneficial to the rest of the platform, its users and to the rest of the industry.

Increased Safety

One of the major benefits of using drones to carry out a multitude of tasks is the removal of humans from near the line network. Dronecloud is facilitating the growth of safer operations.

Rikke Carmichael, head of Air Operations, said: “With the number of drone flights at the level it is and only going to climb higher in the future, we need a system like this to manage the load to ensure we are as efficient and safe as possible. Dronecloud shows our pilots if another drone is operating nearby, as well as alerting the pilot to other potential ground or air hazards in the area of the flight.

As Enterprise deployments of drones are now being rolled out  across industries to survey and monitor sites at previously unknown  levels we need new tools to manage them. The use of drones, however, comes with its own complexities, amplified when scaled. The partnership between Dronecloud and Network Rail is set to open up new workflows to achieve safe and regulated operations in complex environments.

Rail UTM

Dronecloud is helping Network Rail to rapidly scale is drone operation with their pilots safely increasing the number of drone flights by over 300% in less than a year. The trend is set to continue over the next few years.

Whilst Dronecloud is helping increase drone activity for Network Rail today, the partnership is working hard to develop the system of the future. By bringing technologies and UTM services together, we’re helping to create a “local” UTM ecosystem around the rail network and helping Network Rail achieve greater capabilities, such as Beyond Visual Line of Site (BVLOS) track inspections – a game changer for the productivity of drone operations.

“Network Rail is the perfect partner for us. We have a shared vision of the efficiencies that well managed drone operations can give to infrastructure projects. Network Rail has demonstrated that it is forward-thinking, and its team understands the challenges and complexities of enterprise scale drone operations, so we are well aligned on where we can support them now, and in the future.” 

Jan Domaradzki – CEO Dronecloud

External Flight Approvals

Since coming online in January 2021, the service has seen an increase of 500% in the number of flight plans to Network Rail for approval.

The UK has a busy and dense rail network, where many drone companies operate drones near the track. The combination of Network Rail’s growing drone fleet plus external drone operators needing to fly near rail infrastructure means the requirement for visibility of who is flying what and where becomes paramount.

Historically, the Air Operations team at Network Rail received flight plans by email and the labour intensive process for approval took 10 days. As a result, Network Rail and Dronecloud worked together to implement a ‘first of its kind’ approval service for all drone users in the UK.

Since adopting Dronecloud Network Rail has seen the number of external flight approvals increase by 500%.

 All drone operators seeking to fly drones over or near Network rail infrastructure are advised to submit their flights plan via the digital flight approval process powered by Dronecloud.

It’s a quick and easy process requiring basic flight details and a risk assessment. The tools and templates to do this are built into Dronecloud with an intuitive step-by-step workflow guiding you along. Approvals are typically given with 24 hours, often within hours.

The solution to deconfliction has been in part to connect the flight approval and flight planning processes in Dronecloud to Altitude Angels Guardian UTM, already widely used by UK drone users via the NATS Drone Assist safety app and long term partners of Dronecloud. 

For a first hand insight to Network Rail Operations and partnership with Dronecloud, please spend a few minutes to watch the video below as Air Operations mangers discuss operations in a public forum.

“With the number of drone flights at the level it is and only going to climb higher in the future, we needed a flight management system to manage the load to ensure we are as efficient and safe as possible. It will show drone pilots if another drone is operating nearby, as well as alert the pilot to other potential ground or air hazards in the area of the flight.”

Rikke Carmichael, Head of Air Operations Network Rail

We’ve been waiting a while for something like this. Finally, a business focussed software solution for drone operations. We now run all our work through Dronecloud, it has given our team complete oversight of all our jobs and we have made great gains since moving on to the platform.

Seth Zora, President Aerdia LLC

“The workflow is the best we’ve seen in any platform of its kind and we are now able to manage our operational teams, clients and compliance in one place with a new level of ease.”

Mark Jones RUAS

“Dronecloud has allowed EM3 to reduce the amount of time taken in mission planning, speeding up our whole pre-flight workflow. It gives us the confidence to know that all the relevant/correct checks are being carried out and allows us to easily hand over a detailed RAMS document to the client without duplicating processes”

Ross Smith, EM3 Solutions