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Are we ready for drones in our skies?

03 Jul 2015  | Junko Yoshida

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3. Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS)

Drone inspection

In the United States, flying drones beyond an operator's visual line of sight is banned.

Although the proposed Federal Aviation Administration's rules unveiled in February would open the sky to some commercial drones, the language in the proposals would still prohibit drones for advanced operations such as the package delivery services lobbied by Amazon. The FAA's regulations require drones to remain within an operator's visual line of sight as a safety measure.

In contrast, in France, the Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile, the French aviation authority, a few years ago put in place a category specifically designed for BVLOS drones.

For example, Delair-Tech, one of the leading drone makers in France, is known as the first civilian UAV in the world approved by an official government agency to fly beyond visual line-of-sight. The company's drone DT18 cleared the stringent S-4 category (BVLOS drones) regulations set up by the French aviation authority.

The conditions for the S-4 permit include, among others, constant communication from the drone to the ground, a forward looking camera, and the ability to perform fail-safe scenarios (in progressively-escalating sequence) when facing danger.

This is why the United States is currently taking a hard look at the French BVLOS category, explained Yannick Levy, vice preesident of corporate business development at Parrot.

Sure enough, just two months ago, FAA chief Michael Huerta signalled the agency's openness to approving beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and announced a couple of research projects aimed at testing their safety.

"The agency will take part in three new research projects with industry partners in the months ahead. Two of the projects will be aimed at better characterising BVLOS operations, demonstrating the technologies underpinning such flights while also establishing safety and performance data the agency can integrate into its rule-making process," Fortune reported.


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