Drone research project could help swimmers in difficulty

U-Flyte aims to develop new systems that would allow drones fly longer distances

A new €6 million research project which will assist the development of drone technology to perform tasks such as delivering essential medical supplies or coming to the aid of swimmers in distress has been launched in Waterford today.

U-Flyte, a collaboration between researchers at Maynooth University and a number of industry partners, aims to develop computer systems to overcome current restrictions that limit the distance over which drone operators can fly their machines.

Drone operators, unless they have secured special permission, are limited to maintaining their drones within a 300m circumference and within sight at all times.

Drone operators are also limited to flying no higher than 120 metres and while these guidelines are necessary, they restrict the wider development and uptake of drone applications and services – not only in Ireland but also across the globe, said Dr Tim McCarthy from the Maynooth University Department of Computer Science and National Centre for Geocomputation.


U-Flyte’s aim is to tackle the current global log-jam impeding the wider development of drone operation and the roll-out of commercial services by providing the research, data and case studies to guide agencies in allowing drones to safely fly further and higher than the current limits, he said.

“Drone technology has the potential to be used for a wide range of practical applications, from the simple delivery of online shopping, to capturing data for maps of farms, forests, lake and coastlines, and providing security surveillance in vulnerable areas,” said Dr McCarthy.

“Experts even foresee drones being used to transport life-saving medical supplies, or coming to the aid of swimmers, making search and rescue operations safer and more efficient than ever before. However, new research is required to ensure that drones can operate safely and securely.

Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds said "drones have the potential to make it easier to collect data along our coastlines, and even aid in search and rescue operations. "

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times