In-Flight Data, senseFly collaborate on urban BVLOS project

By Patrick C. Miller | October 25, 2018

Canadian commercial drone operator In-Flight Data and Swiss drone manufacturer senseFly have collaborated on North America’s first urban drone beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BLVLOS) project in a major city.

Conducted in Calgary, Alberta, the project was commissioned to collect mapping data supporting the development of a new cemetery—the city’s first since 1940. The project’s goal was to demonstrate that BVLOS unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flights can be conducted safely and efficiently.

Mapping was completed using a senseFly eBee Plus fixed-wing drone. In-Flight Data’s team conducted 257 miles of BVLOS operations at an average distance of 1.46 miles from the pilot. The effort started earlier this year as part of In-Flight Data’s wider BVLOS UAS operations trial. The aim of the trial was to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of BVLOS UAS flights and the cost and efficiency benefits to citizens and governments.

“As the first new municipal graveyard built in Calgary in over 75 years, this is a landmark development for the city,” said Chris Healy, In-Flight Data owner. “The trial we completed earlier this year, which was Canada’s largest BVLOS UAS operations trial to date, demonstrated that this technique can provide highly geo-accurate aerial data in a variety of different applications. This project was no exception and, importantly, flying beyond line of site ensured that all of our take-off and landing areas were respectfully located outside of the graveyard.”

Completed on Sept. 29, the data collected during the project was delivered to the city of Calgary and will support construction management as the development of the graveyard begins. In addition to providing valuable inventory data which enables city officials to identify the real estate available at the site, the findings will also be shared with the public.

Restricted ground access to the site meant that remotely launched UAS operations were the best option. Because the site was situated near a protected nature reserve and bird sanctuary, drone use also minimised the project’s environmental impact, negating the need to drive vehicles onto the site and disturb wildlife.

“The success of this project indicates that the potential for BVLOS operations in urban, city environments is huge,” Healy said. “When correctly planned and executed—including ongoing communication with local air traffic control—and live air traffic monitoring within the drone’s flight software, BVLOS operations are an incredibly efficient, safe and cost-effective tool for mapping cities.”