Drones have been flying over Falmouth Harbour this week as part of technical trials being carried out by the Open Skies Cornwall (OSC) consortia that will continue in 2024.

The trials are part of plans to test ship-to-shore flights and prepare Falmouth Harbour’s ground infrastructure, flying procedures and airspace for drone activity to support maritime use cases identified by the harbour and local stakeholders.

OSC is a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge competition winner working to unlock low-level airspace to enable lifeline and commodity deliveries via drone.

The maritime drone integration and flight trial programme, which kicks off with the ship-to-shore proof of concept flight, has been planned in partnership with consortia partners DronePrep, Falmouth Harbour, Neuron Innovations and Skyports Drone Services. Both Skyports Drone Services and Falmouth Harbour agreed a suitable safety case and issued a Mariners Notice to help mariners integrate and deconflict with the trial activity.

Gareth Whatmore CEO of DronePrep and project lead for Open Skies Cornwall, said: “After a year of hard work, we are very pleased to see the first of many trials in Falmouth Harbour. We hope that the initial proof of concept ship-to-shore tests, from the quayside to a barge in the Carrick Roads, will inspire the local maritime community to further engage with the project and help Falmouth Harbour and the project team create the right supporting infrastructure and procedures for more routine operations in the future.

“As part of the project we have two months of flying with our operational partner fully funded and we would be delighted to have cruise companies, shipping agents and merchant navy fleets engage and collaborate with the project to benefit from the investment UKRI has made in the harbour.”

Miles Carden, CEO at Falmouth Harbour, added: “Testing the possibility of drone deliveries to and from vessels is an incredibly exciting proposition for Falmouth Harbour. Whether medical supplies or deliveries, one can imagine the utility of commercial Ship-to-Shore drone operations.”