Open Skies Cornwall, a pioneering project in the field of drone technology, has completed a successful series of ship-to-shore flight trials in Falmouth harbour.

The trials, conducted by a consortium including DronePrep, Falmouth Harbour, Neuron Innovations, and Skyports Drone Services, aimed to test the ground infrastructure, flying capabilities and airspace of Falmouth Harbour for future maritime-focused drone activities.

Following the successful conclusion of these trials, Open Skies Cornwall hopes to fly sorties for real-world use cases to large civilian vessels at strategic moorings in the harbour and to intercept vessels up to 50 miles offshore, providing additional resilience connectivity to maritime workforces at sea.

The trials identified four landing locations in Falmouth Harbour, and tested key infrastructure in the harbour itself, new sensors that monitor aircraft movements and back-end software updates. New landing locations and flying routes along the Cornish coast towards Truro were also visited.

Gareth Whatmore, CEO of DronePrep and project lead for Open Skies Cornwall, said: “We’re delighted to have completed a successful round of ship-to-shore integration trials, which included a series of landings on our project’s floating drone delivery testbed rig in strategic, large vessel moorings to collect data and evidence ahead of rolling out our large vessel Atlantic capability later this year.

“Ship-to-shore flights offer huge potential to add value for Falmouth Harbour’s community, but it’s important we work closely with all stakeholders to ensure those innovations operate safely and integrate smoothly with existing infrastructure.

“Our consortia members have a wealth of experience safely delivering ship-to-shore drone flights around the world, but these trials are essential for designing and testing infrastructure and procedures specific to Falmouth Harbour.”

Miles Carden, CEO at Falmouth Harbour, added: “The Open Skies Cornwall project was always a challenge to us as a Harbour Authority but the funding from Innovate UK is now realising some really exciting flight activity in Falmouth Harbour that we hope will lead to dedicated airspace and commercial operations in the future.

“The efficiency, safety and environmental benefits of using drones for commercial maritime activity are very exciting and could potentially drive significant additional economic value to Falmouth.

“We hope to accelerate the planned tests and use today’s operations as a springboard for new activity right through 2024.”