The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) test site at Griffiss International Airport, one of several designated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), supported a beyond line of visual sight (BVLOS) flight involving drone provider Southern Company and Verizon with manned traffic. Verizon subsidiary Skyward supplied Airspace Map software to deliver situational awareness to drone pilots, coupled with Verizon connectivity over 4G LTE networks.
At the airport, core testing was done using Hitec’s fixed-wing Xeno FX aircraft. Participants engaged in a day of orientation with the aircraft, obtaining permissions, and performing brief training flights. The drone was deployed to pull a line over a water obstacle, keeping the line elevated and successfully delivering it to a crew member on the other side. In the field, Southern uses this process to pull pilot ropes for electrical transmission and distribution lines, resulting in significant gains in time and safety.
Three flights were carried out at the airport:
- The first flight travelled approximately one mile round trip, with about one-quarter mile distance between the launch location and the ground control station. This flight successfully tested a modified antenna and proved the aircraft was ready for longer flights.
- The second flight doubled this distance: two miles round trip, with three-quarters of a mile between launch and ground control. The aircraft performed as expected and accurate data was collected.
- The final flight tested the aircraft’s endurance in a 32 minute-flight, expending just over half the battery capacity and proving the aircraft was equipped for long-range BVLOS flights.
The tests demonstrated the drones could be safely deployed BVLOS using the equipment available. The procedures executed at NUAIR allowed for the uninterrupted flight of Griffiss’s manned traffic flow, which included military (attack, lift, and rotary-wing), commercial, and civil aircraft. Skyward is building practices and procedures to prove the safety and reliability of BVLOS operations with the objective of helping Southern execute long-range BVLOS flights in urban and remote areas across the US.
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