First ‘SPARROW HAWK’ Drone Test Flights Completed

Jun 19, 2024 | Air Traffic Control, BVLOS, Condition Survey, Construction Project, Regulation

HexCam’s journey towards Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) drone survey flights continues with the successful completion of short-range test flights of the drone that will eventually be flying along RWE’s Norfolk Offshore Wind Project onshore construction corridor. This marks a significant milestone for us and our project partners and puts us a step closer to achieving our Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) backed BVLOS Sandbox project goals.

The “SPARROW HAWK” Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) drone supplied by StirlingX, a GALLOS company, was delivered to us in early May and we were joined by our collaborative partners from StirlingX and Global Drone Training for system training and familiarisation. The new aircraft is significantly different from the quadcopters we’re used to using both technically and in terms of regulations covering its use.

First SPARROW HAWK Drone Test Flights Completed

HexCam’s Scott Rallison assembling the StirlingX SPARROW HAWK

Training covered the unpacking, handling and assembly of the 2.5m wingspan fixed wing aircraft, the use of flight planning software, thorough testing of the command and control systems and a review of emergency procedures.

Once the team were happy that everything was working as it should, we moved on to the first test flight – 2 short circuits around Felthorpe Airfield remaining within 500m of the Remote Pilot. The SPARROW HAWK performed as expected, rising vertically from the Take-Off and Landing Site (TOLS) using its four ‘quadcopter’ propellers before transitioning smoothly to forward fixed wing flight, pushed along by a single rear-mounted propeller. The transition back to a vertical ‘quadcopter’ landing was equally smooth with a gentle touchdown, much to the relief of the whole team.

First SPARROW HAWK Drone Test Flights Completed

StirlingX’s SPARROW HAWK about to set off on its first test flight

We carried out further short-range test flights in early June, demonstrating the robustness of the command and control system and proving that we’re able to fly safely alongside and integrate with the General Aviation (GA) traffic using Felthorpe Airfield.

Reliable Electronic Conspicuity (EC) is key to airspace modernisation and fully-integrated BVLOS drone flights. As shown in the “RADAR replay” shown below, our test flights have been successfully tracked via ADS-B and we’re continuing with the planned roll-out of PilotAware ‘ATOM’ stations and acoustic sensors along the project route to assist with risk quantification alongside Norwich Airport Air Traffic Control.

First SPARROW HAWK Drone Test Flights Completed

Flight track from flight logs

First SPARROW HAWK Drone Test Flights Completed

EC (ADS-B) “RADAR Replay”