BVLOS Leader PrecisionHawk Launch Program to Share Drone Expertise
Flying drones beyond the visual line of sight has inherent risks, as PrecisionHawk well know. They’ve just spent several years extensive research and testing technology to identify the risks associated with operating a drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) such as detection of incoming aircrafts and improve the ability to make a safety decision whilst doing so. Now, they have shared the results of the research conducted on behalf of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program.
The findings are the culmination of an incremental approach conducted in phases. Phase I, conducted in late 2015, aimed to define the boundaries and conditions of BVLOS operations (then known as EVLOS) to ascertain the airspace volume in which such operations could safely be conducted with a solo pilot in command.
Phase II was undertaken in North Carolina and Kansas the following year with both FAA-certified pilots and non-pilots, measuring a wide range of environmental and human factors to determine what could impact detection of risks such as low light, adverse weather, visual obstructions, pilot hearing and vision and how these might affect decision-making processes.
Dr. Allison Ferguson, Director of Airspace Research said in all cases, it was critical that humans were assisted with BVLOS technology in order to conduct such flights safely. “A key takeaway of all of these results is that there is always going to be variation in this process whenever we rely exclusively on unassisted human ability to mitigate risk,” said Dr. Ferguson. “A good situational awareness technology can help make that operation more consistent over more of the population, which in turn makes any risk predictions easier and more realistic. Using technology, when you are not limited to visual and auditory detection abilities, the operator is at least as effective as the visual detectors over much larger distances, with substantially less stress and fatigue.”
At an event held for federal aviation rule-makers and drone policy thought leaders in Washington, DC yesterday, PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen confirmed the company intends share the knowledge they have gleaned from the program in the form of consulting and training services. The ‘BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program’ would enable drone service providers to fly safe commercial BVLOS missions.
In his presentation, Chasen praised Ferguson for her work on the program. “Our research, led by Dr. Allison Ferguson, PrecisionHawk’s Director of Airspace Research, is the foundation of the BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program. Allison has worked closely with the FAA and industry leaders to develop standards that have the potential to revolutionize the drone industry. The research project’s success is due—in large part—to her dedication.”
“We look forward to sharing our experience with businesses and operators in a range of industries. In doing so, our aim is to provide more safety data to regulators while fostering the adoption of drone technology at large,” Chasen continued.
To do so, PrecisionHawk are bringing in drone regulations expert Diana Cooper to lead the BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program. Having worked with PrecisionHawk since 2015, Diana also serves as the President of the Small UAV Coalition, which paves the way for commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small UAVs by collaborating with leading technology companies. Her UAV pedigree includes advising on several UAV regulatory and policy initiatives including the FAA Drone Advisory Subcommittee, the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee on Remote Identification and Tracking of UAS, and the NTIA Multi-Stakeholder Process on UAS Privacy. Prior to joining PrecisionHawk, Diana led and developed the UAS and Robotics Practice Group at a leading law firm, gaining recognition as a recognized thought leader in UAS law. She has since testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as briefed the House UAS Caucus on issues affecting the industry.
Congrats to @PrecisionHawk on a great event on the #Future of #UAS: From #Research to #Commercial! #PathfinderFuture #drones @Newseum @FAANews @Diana_M_Cooper @michaelchasen @PrecisionHaun @LiaReich pic.twitter.com/fNblPZOodS
— Small UAV Coalition (@smallUAVs) February 26, 2018
PrecisionHawk was awarded a waiver to conduct its beyond visual line of sight operations, allowing the company a significant expansion of 12 times the normal line of sight flight radius. This operational expansion would improve efficiency in many industry applications,as it allows pilots to cover a larger area in fewer flights.
“Due to the complexities of flying BVLOS, the waiver process is purposefully arduous, which has resulted in a very low achievement rate,” said Diana Cooper. “PrecisionHawk has developed expertise in navigating these complexities to support the adoption of BVLOS practices. I look forward to working directly with organizations to unlock new possibilities for executing inspections, surveys, precision agriculture, emergency response, and more.”
Although the official program and report will be made available next month, PrecisionHawk have started working with enterprise clients, integrating BVLOS operations in key industries including environmental monitoring pipeline inspection. BVLOS technology has been legal for years in certain countries such as France, and there is considerable research and testing being undertaken with regard to other industry applications including military, medical and commercial drone delivery and precision agriculture.
PrecisionHawk were also awarded a night operations waiver allowing expansion of its operational capacity beyond that which daylight permits. This now means that enterprise clients can utilise drones in low-light situations such as law enforcement, surveillance, or in response to fires. The Phase II report is available at Precision Hawk.