Leading commercial drone company PrecisionHawk has announced that they have received the first Part 107 waiver for BVLOS flight (beyond visual line of sight.)
PrecisionHawk has been working with the FAA to establish the safety case for BVLOS flight as part of the Pathfinder program, designed to help the FAA and NASA gather data on issues critical to drone innovation and regulation. The result of their experimental work is that the FAA has now given them permission to include BVLOS flight as part of their commercial operations.
In addition to being able to fly beyond visual line of sight, the waiver also gives PrecisionHawk approval to train commercial drone operators who want to offer EVLOS flight (Extended visual line of sight) as a service.
The permission is significant. “Under Pathfinder Phase 1, PrecisionHawk determined that the extension in range offered by EVLOS operations supports a significant expansion in the area of operation, possibly up to 12 times what is achievable within line of sight,” says a company statement.
“Under Pathfinder, PrecisionHawk has been able to research and understand the complexities of operating in EVLOS, which we have shared with the FAA to help specify and shape the requirements for doing it safely,” said Thomas Haun, EVP at PrecisionHawk. “Large agribusiness fields, forests, mining operations, public utilities and other rural industries are examples of where extended operations are needed, and to accommodate the growing demand, PrecisionHawk has been actively exploring operational and technology solutions to meet this need.”
PrecisionHawk uses an ” airspace display technology” which they call LATAS to help track drones and avoid obstacles (like trees, powerlines or airplanes.) The LATAS system is available for free at www.flylatas.com. While the FAA has not said that the use of the LATAS system or training from PrecisionHawk is necessary to receive a BVLOS flight waiver, both may help drone operators to make the case that their BVLOS application is working within a proven safety framework.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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