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History was made in Binstead this afternoon (Saturday) when an unmanned aerial vehicle landed on the Isle of Wight and took off again in a special UK trial fast tracked by the Government.

The double engined, fixed-wing ‘Windracers Ultra’ drone took off from Lee-on-Solent at around 14:05 and touched down safely on the Island at Binstead Airfield at 14:23 after circling several times.

A team on the ground conducted a number of checks and the UAV took off again without fault at 15:40, again circling several times before returning to the mainland.

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A payload of personal protective equipment was successfully offloaded from the drone and transported by road to St Mary’s Hospital.

What made today’s flight so special is that it is the first time outside of military use that a UAV has been allowed to fly out of the line of sight, meaning the pilot is controlling the drone remotely from a significant distance away – in this case 5 miles.

As previously reported by Island Echo, the Government has stepped in to fast track trials of drones to carry out autonomous flights to and from the Isle of Wight. Although the concept has been on the cards for sometime, it has been realised that the flights must be established quicker to support the Island during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Windracers Ultra drone can carry a whopping 100kg for 1000 miles, but during the trial period it will carry a maximum of 40kg – starting with PPE before then expanding to carry medicines and blood, as and when approved. It it expected that as many as 4 flights a day could be carried out in the future.

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The CAA gave the nod for the inaugural cross-Solent flight to take place earlier this month with many speculating as to when exactly the flight would take place. This afternoon’s benign conditions resulted in a green light and the flight came just 24 hours after the drone ventured over water for the first time.

Witnessing the landing were team members from the drone project and the family of the land owner.

WATCH – The moment the UAV landed and took off for the first time (apologies for the audio – technical issues)

The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
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I wasn’t aware we had an airfield in Binstead, Could someone enlighten me

Don't tell him pike.

It’s not an airfield .It’s a private grass strip.its been there for decades .

Original Mark

That’s right, it literally is a field with a bit mown flat – a true “air field” in every sense.

It is CAA registered though which is what differentiates it from any other stretch of mown grassland.

If you look very hard on Google earth you can actually just spot it.

Don't tell him pike.

There are lots of private grass strips on the island .


It landed in a farmer’s field with permission from the farmer!

Progress At Any Price?

Very trendsetting and innovative.
How is it cheaper and more effective than just bringing the stuff over in ferry or Police/Custom boats and having it collected at at the jetty?


It will be excellent for time sensitive delivery, the technology is now much cheaper and the drone will use much less fuel than a boat. The downside will be the weather, but as these things get more clever then weather won’t be an issue. You will be glad of it if you ever need an urgent blood transfusion.


The Windracers Ultra is not your typical drone—in size or mechanics. In place of electric motors, it has two gas-powered engines that allow the plane to fly up to 621 miles. It can also carry considerable cargo—up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds).


And you would be glad of a fixed link if you ever needed mainland hospital treatment, especially cancer! Do you know the pain & hassle of getting a ferry when you are that ill?? Where is our MP when we need a fixed link investigating? The 1998 fixed link feasibility study was positive, so why were the results hidden from the public???

Captain chaos

Yes, the fixed link is the only answer. Having first hand experience of having to travel to Southampton for pain surgery, they won’t usually let you stay in the car and if the appointment is arranged by Southampton then no hospital transport…… Try doing that when going for spinal surgery. A bridge is what is needed and now


As we are susceptible to fog over the island and ferries can be cancelled, does that impede it?


It will to start with as there is a safety pilot at each airfield to step in and land it if required, but once the technology is developed fog will no longer be an issue, it will be able to land on automatically, before this the manufacturer will have to demonstrate to the CAA that it is safe and reliable. Honestly, it will be safer, cheaper and will not take up resources like helicopters or police boats. Fog is a major issue for helicopters, boats or most forms of transport controlled by a human, if programmed correctly you then take… Read more »


it is not the UAV ability in fog – it is other users trying to fly in fog that is the issue.

Original Mark

The human factor is not the issue with fog – it is the lack of visibility in a busy area. All of the forms of transport you describe have fog mitigation measures such as radar. and terrain detection systems coupled the most sophisticated and adaptive flight control systems available – A human pilot. For the foreseeable future the ability of human pilots to rapidly respond to unforeseen circumstances will continue to make them superior to AI systems overall. Even in the most sophisticated aircraft standard procedure is that the pilot takes control in an emergency, not the automatics. To even… Read more »


Fog, high winds etc, would not be an issue if we had a fixed link! Nothing would be more reliable than that. All polls held by the county press, island echo etc,( which could not be corrupted) have all showed a majority for a fixed link study, so why won’t the council or MP ask the DfT to do it? Surely the correct information by experts is needed to make a decision? Could it be ferry company corruption or vested interests in them?? I bet most of the islanders with covid19, caught it on the ferries, but if they could… Read more »


Der, running costs? reliability?


Do you know how much the ferries rip everyone off? Especially things like this

Wise Up Dearies

There is no way this is cheaper or more effective than getting essential drugs (do bear in mind the word ‘essential’ here children) here by normal ferries.
And if the ferries have had all their radars and modern technology stripped the use the police launches or coastguard, or even a helicopter.
The drone thing is just someone trying to get in on an angle to make money.


What a complete waste of tax payers Money To get supplies from Southampton Hospital to Lee on Solent will need road transport of some 18 miles taking 36-41 mins. Once landed on the Isle of Wight it is a 6 mile road journey from Binstead to Newport hospital taking some 15-17 mins so total journey time of over 1 hour – not to mention very energy efficient! There are a number of high speed charter RIBs (boats) currently sitting idle that could do the trip from Central Southampton to the Isle of Wight in under 30 minutes and at a… Read more »

Planey McPlaneface

Who said it was funded by the tax payer?

Toby Wallis

Well, who else is going to pay for it?


29 million is being spent on this by the DfT over 3 years… so yes it’s the taxpayer


I’m guessing you own Rebel Marine then Jim. Don’t be afraid of technological competition. Unmanned Ribs will be available soon.


You have missed the point entirely! The remote location is being used for the testing because it is remote! It would be stupidly of the highest order to run tests in urbanised locations before the CAA were completely satisfied that the drones are reliably safe. Rib charter isn’t needed at the moment and there are plenty of charter companies that are happy offer this service for free to the NHS if required (just cover fuel expenses), my own company included! You have also failed to understand that the £28 million is an overall future investment, not just for the COVID-19… Read more »

Original Mark

Except part of the test area, the solent, is (even now) a busy area. To get the required range and payload capability will always require very large, heavy drones that will almost certainly need to be fixed wing and so require airstrips at both ends. Airstrips with ILS if the drone is to operate in bad weather. That would severely limit the “point to point” operation you describe. Drone delivery has it’s uses in remote areas but I’m not convinced that they are the best solution in built up areas. To quote the old adage – just because we can,… Read more »

Bob Frapples

Would be amazing if one day this was on a bigger scale and could take passengers


What like an airplane



Bob Frapples

I was thinking aeroplane


There is a company in Germany, including airbus, who are making electric flying taxis as we speak. Hopefully they can be used for this, as well as getting on & off for islanders

Nick Everest

So where exactly is Binstead airfield?

Russell Winters

Nail in the coffin for general aviation. This will be used for profit by other large companies around the world while those dreaming of flying will be told “no, the airspace belongs to flying robots delivering rubber dog shit from Hong Kong “.

Bob Frapples

Rubber dog shit? Is the dog rubber or the shit?

Toby Wallis

Single-seater passenger drones – the ultimate in social distancing!

Joe Bloggs

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and quicker to load a large lorry up with PPE and bring it across via Red Funnel?


Depends how quick you want it

Carl Feeney

This requires manning both ends. If indeed this is for emergency medical supplies, are these teams of people each end going to be permanently stationed at Lee on Solent… and apparently in a farmers field? There are so many reasons why this plan is quite ridiculous.

This lunacy has a logical and sensible alternative which will be incredibly fast and efficient for perpetuity.

Immediately available, 24 hours, 6 minute crossing.. even faster by emergency vehicle…,for FREE.

It’s called the Solent Freedom Tunnel.

For healthcare go to https://solentfreedomtunnel.co.uk/hospital-and-healthcare/


Yawn… how boring!


Carl: The definition of madness is “Doing the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting a different result”! Give it up. It’s not happening. EVER!! The numbers don’t stack up, never have, never will. The environmental damage will be huge and just in case you weren’t paying attention, the public purse is now empty to an unprecedented degree due to the virus. Game over.

RC flyer

All the Utter rubbish that has been pumped out by Government/aviation authorities to force RC enthusiasts to ‘abandon’ this once cherished model flying hobby by taking it all out of reach through licencing using ‘H/S concerns’ as the excuse… despite no risk assessment ever being produced or anyone ever being killed its long history established history! We all knew the real reason behind it all… BIG TEC and Governments can do what no other person can offer…£££££££££££ always speaks louder than common sense plus political bullsh%t can be stacked ultimately far higher to force laws through by Big/Tec Corp lobbyists!… Read more »

Carl Feeney

The first flight of the cross Solent Drone captured on film. This ladies and gentleman is what the Department of Transport are spending £29million on over the next three years, to transport emergency medical supplies across the Solent. Problems envisaged: 1/ Won’t operate in storms / high winds. 2/ Requires manning both ends so not 24 hour operation in emergencies. 3/ Requires much maintenance. 4/ Requires runways as opposed to standard drones. 5/ requires three separate modes of transport and two changeovers. (Vehicle to airport, then flight, then vehicle to hospital). Labour intensive, expensive, inefficient, environmentally damaging and unreliable. Watch… Read more »


Luddites , the lot of you!


Rc and drone users £9. Yearly to fly .Will it go up in price yearly??GUARANTEED. That is where the money is coming from for this over priced corrupted government idea .I could do it for 3 million so who’s pockets are getting lined for this job??????


Perhaps you haven’t noticed that the whole world is in economic chaos! Who do you think will take the financial risk on a fixed link that actually goes nowhere, other than a small Island? Your crowdfunding hasn’t actually done much over the long time it’s been running……NO Big Business behind your scheme……I wonder why?


Whilst this gimmick may work in the short term. I’m guessing this will ultimately be weather dependent. Personally some of the money thrown at this project could have been used to fund a Solent link feasibility study. This would confirm either way wether a link is viable. I’m afraid this current project is a flash in the pan idea. We as an island are far too reliant and beholden to the ferry companies who lets all be honest are not in it for the benefit of our communities and interest but that if their shareholders.

Toby Wallis

Given that the drone must be flown live by a remote pilot, what is the advantage over a conventional fixed-wing plane? Reading between the lines in the report, it requires very good weather conditions. A fixed-wing plane would probable be more resilient to adverse weather conditions. Why has a drone been chosen instead? “Cost”? PR?

Sean Tiltman

Any spare cash for mental health Bob, two suicides in last couple days due to lack of support.
Hospital is like a Moldovan version of the NHS…very little pediatric care or that of any other tbh.
Perhaps a spare £90,000 for a viability study into a fixed link?
Just wondering how long it would take to use up £29million worth of petrol for medical supply motorbike?


Great technology, but why not use a manned aircraft which could carry a larger payload with one pilot instead of two ? Unless it can land at St Mary’s, surely a tunnel would be a more reliable alternative in the future, why won’t the Isle of Wight council and the Island MP request a viability study from the DoT and the Arup Group ? Are they so frightened of the outcome of such a study ?

Common Sense

It is not economically viable, why waste Government money (our money) on something that is a no goer? Do you actually think that people on the mainland will want all that disruption to their way of life for the benefit of someone else? If you want a viability study then spend the money that has been raised by the crowdfunding appeal on a study as to how the mainland feels. A bridge or a tunnel will not happen unless the mainland wants it to, so the tiny amount of crowdfunding that has been raised would be better spent over there… Read more »


I see Bob you keep replying, that the weather will still be an issue, but they will get better, so it won’t be. That is just lies, as it stands now everything is subject to the weather, even far more advanced technology than these, it’s just another gimanic and waste of money.

Captain chaos

A fixed link has and always will be viable…… But it’s the people who will stop it, people and attitude. A bridge would be quicker and cheaper, across the West end of the island where the larger ships do not go, so it doesn’t need to be so high, and built on piles so the expanse isn’t so long, look at the Øresund. And it doesn’t need to have the length of on and off ramps the critic say …… After all on and off ramps don’t need to be straight , in China they used spirals to rise 120m… Read more »

Steve Wright

A fixed link is the only long term solution. I really can’t see the logic of not having one in this day and age. It’ll still be an Island!!!!!


Where do you think the funding will come from?

John Crosley

This is plainly someone’s vanity project. This drone takes 20mins, the hovercraft takes 10mins according to Hovertravel. It can fly on one engine or even glide if both engines fail but they omitted to mention it needs another pilot to land. This means an emergency landing is out of the question. It would just crash, unless the emergency happened within sight of the landing area. Another projected use, that of delivering aid to inaccessible areas, would require a second pilot to be there to land it. Bit of an oxymoron there. Finally, allowing an autonomous drone of this size to… Read more »

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