Airbus Aerial has been granted a waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operations in Grand Forks, ND without the need for a visual observer.
According to Airbus Aerial the waiver allows the company to conduct such operations as part of North Dakota Department of Transportation’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) – a public–private partnership sponsored by the FAA to help define the regulatory framework for drone operations and their integration into the national airspace system.
In 2018, the US Department of Transportation selected NDDOT as one of 10 state, local or tribal entities to participate in the FAA’s UAS IPP. The North Dakota team is working to safely incorporate UAS technology in three core challenge areas: conducting flights over people, night operations and BVLOS operations without the need for visual observers (VO’s).
The Airbus Aerial work will focus on working with Xcel Energy to deploy a SenseFly eBee Plus fixed-wing UAS to fly BVLOS over the right-of-ways of Xcel Energy’s distribution networks in residential neighbourhoods. This work is critical in equipping the utility industry to appropriately assess and utilize UAS and enjoy the benefits of a cost effective and scalable program across their entire network. BVLOS/OOP (Operation over People) operations are the only way to appreciate a significant increase in ROI with UAS technology and as the scale grows, the lessons learned and benefits will expand into new markets.
A novel methodology was used in the application for waivers from the FAA through the work by North Dakota’s IPP team (NDDOT, Northern Plains UAS Test Site and its partners), according to a company press report. The approach is multi-pronged in that it advances operations through risk mitigations and reliability metrics with known platforms like senseFly’s eBee Plus by greatly expanding on previously approved waivers and expanding operational envelopes. Underlying this approach is a reusable and adaptable framework to accelerate aircraft/operation waiver approvals utilizing a quantifiable risk-based methodology.
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