Drones have become an everyday news topic for all of the wrong reasons as they play a part in deadly warfare around the globe.

Here in Falmouth the harbour is being used as a test bed for a commercial drone operation that could have a tremendous impact for the port and shipping, using the Western Approaches.

Drones have been flying over the UK’s first ‘drone-friendly’ harbour in Falmouth this week as part of ship-to-shore flight trials carried out by Open Skies Cornwall - a UK Research and Innovation-Future Flight Challenge programme, delivered by Innovate UK.

The flights are part of a series of trials testing Falmouth Harbour’s ground infrastructure, flying capabilities and airspace for future maritime-focused drone activities, such as the delivery of emergency medical, food bunkering or maintenance supplies.

Following the successful conclusion of these trials, Open Skies Cornwall’s aspirations are to fly sorties for real-world use cases to large civilian vessels at strategic moorings in the Harbour. They also aim to intercept vessels up to 50 miles offshore in the Western Approaches and Celtic Sea, providing additional resilience connectivity for maritime workforces at sea.

The trials identified four landing locations in Falmouth Harbour, and tested infrastructure in the harbour itself. New landing locations and flying routes along the Cornish coast towards Truro were also visited thanks to facilitation work along the upper reaches of the Fal Estuary by Port of Truro and Cornwall Council.

Gareth Whatmore, CEO of DronePrep and project lead for Open Skies Cornwall, said: “We’re pleased to have completed a successful round of ship-to-shore integration trials and have been delighted by the community’s positive engagement."

Miles Carden, CEO at Falmouth Harbour, said: “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 the Harbour, which we hope will lead to dedicated airspace and commercial operations in 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."

Open Skies Cornwall is part-funded by the UK Research and Innovation Future Flight Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.