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British firm makes first quadcopter flight over English Channel

The 72-minute, 35km flight was made to demonstrate the commercial potential of drones.

A British commercial drone company has sealed its place in the record books after successfully completing the first quadcopter flight over the English Channel. Earlier this month, Ocuair's custom-built Enduro 1 drone set off from the French coast "on an unusually sunny and calm morning," finally touching down in Dover 72 minutes and 35 kilometers later.

It's unclear exactly how many records the flight may have set or broken since there's little in the way of official score-keeping to reference, but the 35km trek in challenging open-air conditions is a feat all the same. The Ocuair crew followed the quadcopter's journey by boat, keeping within 500 meters of the drone at all times to abide by UAV regulations. It's a good thing they played it by the book, though. The drone's GPS autopilot had to be disabled 20 minutes before arrival after a questionable maneuver, and the final leg flown by manual controls.

While the Ocuair team are understandably chuffed with their achievement, they weren't just after records, fame and glory. Hobbyist drones from the likes of DJI and Parrot aren't exactly built to be endurance machines, and the long-haul flight was designed to show the viability of drones in commercial settings, as delivery mules in particular. "I wanted to do something to stand out and show what this technology is capable of. Companies like Amazon, with their Prime Air service have seen the commercial potential of drones. This attempt pushes the boundaries of what is technically possible," team lead Richard Gill said.

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