Among the array of regulations on drone operations imposed by the United States government is flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Instated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the regulation prevents drone pilots from flying their crafts without having a clear direct visual. The FAA’s reasoning behind imposing this particular regulation are based on concerns of putting lives and infrastructure in danger, along with being assured that drones won’t be involved in midair collisions and pose no risk to damaging people and property on the ground below.
Finding a way around BVLOS regulations presents a primal opportunity for commercial drone operators, while the main challenge presented by the FAA is to incorporate drone technology by introducing an acceptable level of safety risk into the National Airspace System (NAS). Nobody is currently permitted to fly BVLOS in the U.S. without obtaining a special waiver from the FAA called the BVLOS Part 107. Over 1200 drone operators have submitted applications for BVLOS flight, out of which 99 percent were rejected. Drone operators must prove their flights can be conducted safely without endangering other aircraft, people, and property on the ground or in the air, and most applications are rejected due to poor safety cases or lacking the proper technology.
According to the FAA, three components must be satisfied to enable BVLOS operations—detection, safety, and operator training. Drone technology must be able to identify cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft that enter the drone operator’s airspace, along with providing status alerts to indicate reduced functionality like lagging, latency, and mechanical failure. The FAA must also be ensured pilots are aware of existing airspace classes, temporary flight restrictions, and no-fly zones, along with conducting proper pre-flight checks on hardware and implement the proper flight operations in the event of an in-flight malfunction. Lastly, pilots are required to have proper experience in visual line of sight (VLOS-) and BVLOS-specific training.
Last week at the AUVSI show in Denver, Colorado, drone technology provider PrecisionHawk, unveiled their blueprints (known as the Pathfinder Report) aimed at enabling drones to fly EBVLOS (extended beyond visual line of sight) flight by integrating technology in these crafts that directly addresses the three necessary components mentioned above. This technology enables drone operators to hear aircraft like planes up to 10 miles away by canceling out noise the drone makes, and issues an alert to the pilot so they can react accordingly. Even if the pilot doesn’t issue an immediate or proper response, the drone can automatically land itself in the event another aircraft enters its airspace.
Out in the field, researchers deployed drones in the same environments where commercial operations would likely occur, and introduced “intruders” in the form of unmanned aircrafts flown by FAA-certified pilots. The aircraft would approach the drone’s airspace from directions unknown to the drone pilots, who would have to detect the intruder’s presence and act accordingly, while continuing to operate the drone and keep an eye out for additional distractions. Drone operators were equipped with two screens showing the operational view on the ground control station and displaying LATAS (Low Altitude Tracking and Airspace Safety) software, which showed position and altitude of the cooperating aircraft. Over 600 approaches in the field combined observations with those made during in-lab simulations, and allowed the collection for a significant set of both quantitative and qualitative data regarding information pilots need in order to avoid midair collisions.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)