senseFly, a commercial drone subsidiary of Parrot Group, has become the first drone operator to be granted anytime beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) authorization in Switzerland.
The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) is allowing BVLOS flights for any of senseFly’s eBee-branded mapping drones as long as observers are used. senseFly says there’s no requirement to set up a flight operation ‘Danger Area’ beforehand.
There are strict conditions for which these BVLOS flights can be conducted, however. The eBee drones can fly at a maximum height of 500 feet above ground level (1,000 feet above urban areas) and the visual observers. And the observers must each monitor a section of airspace, with a radius of 2 kilometers, for other aircraft and be able to communicate instantly with the drone’s operator in the case of any potential issues.
“While this permission is valid only for senseFly, it opens the door for our Swiss eBee customers to apply for, and enjoy, similarly flexible flight conditions,” says Jean-Christophe Zufferey, senseFly’s CEO. “This will, in turn, allow them to grow their businesses by taking on larger, more complex projects.”
According to senseFly, several of its customers have been granted permission for BVLOS flights under similar conditions in England (PDF), France (PDF), and Italy.
BVLOS flights are restricted in the United States, which is an issue that has hindered the commercial drone industry, especially drone delivery. In December 2016, however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a certificate of authorization (COA) for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee BVLOS drone flights. It became the first test site in the country to allow drones to fly BVLOS without a chase plane.
Initially, the BVLOS flights in North Dakota will be authorized for larger drones flying above 10,000 feet, but Northern Plains UAS Test Site director Nick Flom told Robotics Trends that data will be collected “to determine if our concept will also work for lower altitude operations” such as drone delivery.
In another sign the FAA is starting to ease up on drone restrictions, 3D Robotics recently performed seven flights at the world’s busiest airport. This marked the first drone flights at a major airport under the Part 107 commercial drone rules. 3DR used its Site Scan drones to collect data on two four-story parking structures at the airport that a construction firm was hired to demolish.