The UK Drones Pathfinder Programme announces a new Pathfinder led by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

A ground-breaking new project announced today (12th May) will allow the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to regularly and routinely use drones, to carry out its time critical, reactive search and rescue, and international counter pollution obligations.

The MCA Drone Demonstration and Development Pathfinder aims to explore and develop the safe use of drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) through demonstration of drones such as the Hermes 900 in all classes of airspace.

The MCA will deliver this project by working in partnership with Elbit Systems UK, Inzpire and Aviation Systems Group (ASG) and through close co-operation with the CAA.

Flight trials of the Hermes 900 are designed to demonstrate the safe use of drones in unsegregated airspace and will be conducted from West Wales Airport in late Summer 2020. The MCA Drone Demonstration and Development Pathfinder seeks to demonstrate the use of Hermes 900 and Skylark I-LEX drones in the agency’s life-saving work and will explore ways to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of staff.

The project is in alignment with the UK Drones Pathfinder Programme, which is sponsored by the Department for Transport (DfT) and takes a phased approach to achieving routine use of drones within the UK, identifying and overcoming the technical, operational, and commercial barriers for bringing new BVLOS services to the UK. The DfT has now confirmed that funding for the Pathfinder Programme will be extended to cover the 2020-21 period.

Transport Minister Rachael Maclean MP said:

“This ground-breaking project could mean that our fantastic search and rescue teams, who save lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can cover a wider search area, pick up more incidents and tend to these quickly and safely.

“Going beyond search and rescue, the project will also help teams to quickly spot and tackle pollution, protecting our valuable marine environment. This is an exciting project that is supported by our Drones Pathfinder Programme which we are pleased to be funding into 2020/21.”

The MCA is investing £1m in the project and will combine its experience in managing aviation operations with its world-leading expertise in search and rescue and counter pollution to direct the project.

Elbit Systems UK is recognised for its technical and commercial innovation together with its collaborative behaviour with regulators and customers worldwide to achieve clearances for the use of unmanned aviation vehicles of varying size, weight and capability for search and rescue. Together with Inzpire and ASG, they have formed a team with the requisite skills, experience and personnel to successfully achieve the MCA’s principal objective.

The Drones Pathfinder Programme is managed by the Connected Places Catapult in partnership with the Department of Transport (DfT) and supported by  the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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The Delivery Partnership

About MCA

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is an executive agency of the United Kingdom working to prevent the loss of lives at sea and is responsible for implementing British and international maritime law and safety policy

About Elbit Systems UK Ltd

Elbit Systems UK Ltd (ESUK) holds four wholly owned subsidiaries as well as two joint ventures. In total, over 500 personnel are employed by the Elbit Systems UK companies, in high tech roles in the defence, aerospace and rail sectors. The two joint ventures were formed in order to deliver the Watchkeeper programme for the British Army and to supply and support three fleets of aircraft within the UK MoD Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) programme.

About Connected Places Catapult

The Connected Places Catapult accelerates smarter living and travelling in and between the places of tomorrow. We focus on growing businesses with innovations in mobility services and the built environment that enable new levels of physical, digital and social connectedness. The Connected Places Catapult operates at the intersection between public and private sectors and between local government and transport authorities. We convene the disparate parts of the market to help innovators navigate the complexity of doing business, creating new commercial opportunities and improving productivity, socio-economic and environmental benefits for places.

About Aviation Systems Group (ASG)

Building upon over 100 years of both military and civil aviation experience, ASG brings a refreshing approach helping both businesses and hobbyists turn their commercial opportunity or interests into reality. Visit for more information

About Inzpire

Inzpire recognises that a truly great company – one capable of delivering to the highest expectations of the UK and global military and civilian sectors – is only possible with great people.

We deploy a unique combination of highly experienced military and engineering personnel to develop solutions that excel in every respect.

Our engineering team has many years’ experience in frontline operations and in the development of solutions for the UK Defence industrial sector.   We combine this experience of the environment, deployment, training and engineering knowledge to deliver world beating solutions.

This powerful mix of military and engineering experience offers our customers an unrivalled capability within the defence and security sector.

We are a proudly British company, this pride defines our DNA and, as embedded partners across many areas of the UK MOD, we are perfectly positioned to bridge military and civilian requirements – serving both with the same exceptional level of professionalism, adaptability and deep-rooted expertise. For more information visit: