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Advanced Drone Operations: Overcoming the Barriers to Implementation


Share | 10/29/2020

Flights at extended or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operations over people (OOP) will require operators to conduct additional planning to obtain permissions, yet the improved efficiency and increased mapping potential are beneficial to completing complex projects faster while increasing ROI.

The benefits of implementing advanced drone operations are wide-ranging, including the ability to gather more detailed insights and data, as well as expanding the profit potential for your business.

Yet why is overall adoption not higher across the globe?

The approval process can certainly prove challenging to navigate; advanced drone operations require additional preflight planning and permissions, which can take much longer than standard operations. Plus, the regulations vary from country to country.

Here, we look at the current process for operators and explore why the outlook for the future is positive.

Get Ready for Take-off

So, where do drone users start once they have decided to implement more advanced operations? Submitting a flight plan to the relevant authorities is the first step.

In the U.S., for example, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires a Part 107 Waiver to be completed – an official document that approves certain operations of aircraft outside the limitations of regulation.

There are numerous safety and logistical considerations for every flight plan, and users must prove that their drones will not be a danger to the people and property around them. They must also have measures in place to return to a designated ‘home’ point in the event of any hardware or software malfunction.

Despite progress in this area, there is still work to be done to ensure a smooth approval process. Thousands of companies in the U.S. applied for an FAA waiver to fly Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in 2018, with only 23 approved, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Since then, countries like Canada and Brazil have made great strides in making advanced drone operations more accessible.

Just recently, drone engineering and consulting specialists AL Drones and geotechnology company Santiago & Cintra announced that the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) has approved Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights to be carried out in Brazil using senseFly’s flagship eBee X fixed-wing drone, while Canada partnered with IN-FLIGHT Data to test BVLOS flights.

The Only Way Is Up

Although approvals for advanced operations can be time-consuming, important steps are already being taken to ensure missions are more accessible to drone users, whatever their project scope.

BVLOS flights are one area that has seen forward progress in recent years. To ensure safer and smoother integration with other air traffic, operators must use either visual observers or a Detect and Avoid system – regardless of country.

Detect and Avoid systems are becoming more widespread as the technology advances and is a key step in making advanced drone operations more achievable and easier to scale up in the future.

There has also been rising interest in the use of Remote ID on drones, which would require operators to use a broadcast and network method to relay information on positioning and approvals to people on the ground.

Remote ID is considered a foundational component for integrating drones into the national airspace. The FAA published a document on this potential requirement in 2019, which received more than 50,000 comments from the drone community.

If a nationwide Remote ID is implemented, it would be another huge step to ensuring safety and reliability, as well as helping to streamline the approval process.

Better Collaboration

The challenge the commercial drone industry has long faced, however, is that drone regulations are currently not harmonious worldwide.

With more drones in the air than ever before, it is crucial that the global community works together to streamline the approval process.

Measures such as Detect and Avoid systems and Remote ID are just two ways in which progress is being made – and there are plenty more on the horizon.

For example, the new Type Certification, which covers durability and reliability, failure and performance testing and design requirements, is currently being trialed by the Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office (LA-ACO), signaling a potential move away from waivers in the future.

The movement is also gaining traction across Europe, with the FAA and Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) recently signing a declaration of intent to strengthen collaboration in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) space and cooperate to advance the harmonization of domestic and international UAS safety standards. This is a vital step forward for the UAV industry.

But what more can be done? In the future, it will be key to maintain a two-way collaboration between the regulatory bodies and UAV operators, allowing both parties to work together to develop regulatory frameworks using mission data and the insights gathered from drone testing.

This will enable advanced drone operation planning to become more accessible for commercial companies – our ultimate aim.

Want to find out more? Read our white paper on advanced drone operations, where we explore everything operators need to know for successful integration.  

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