Unmanned's largest event shows mood of industry, focus on BVLOS

By Staff | May 01, 2019

The mood is strong at the world’s largest gathering of unmanned systems experts and technology providers. XPONENTIAL 2019, the annual event hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, has once again helped reveal some of the industries greatest advancements and opportunities, along with the challenges still present in the evolving unmanned aircraft systems sector. This year the event is in Chicago.

Among the main topics garnering attention amongst everyone from small software providers to large-scale platform manufacturers is the complex realities of beyond visual line of sight operations. Several platform providers have emphasized that for the first time they have the bility to provide an out-of-the box BVLOS solution for service providers or end users. Several industry partners from across the country are taking place in a unique BVLOS event designed to showcase what commercial operations will eventually need.

To reveal the future of the industry’s hottest topic—BVLOS—the players are taking part in a unique event on Wednesday to explain what they have done to expand BVLOS operations. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site will talk for the first time about their work with industry partners Harris Corp., Grand Sky, the state of North Dakota, Phoenix Unmanned and others. The co-located event, available to attendees of AUVSI, has already shown its popularity amongst the industry with more than 800 pre-registered to learn about the latest in BVLOS.  

Iris Automation launched Casia, a computer-based BVLOS fixed-wing that comes with detect-and-avoid solutions installed and ready on the system. Swift Engineering, the former racecar designer that helped design a major fixed-wing system for Northrop Grumann, has multiple platforms that the company said are now commercially viable with the industry moving closer to true BVLOS operations.

Apart from BVLOS several other announcements were made on day one. AiRXOS, a GE Aviation company, released a new multi-UAV management system along with a new service to help the energy industry. Echodyne spoke on its continued efforts in counter UAS. Sqwaq, a new California-based firm, debuted a new bonded cellular network that can enable real-time BVLOS flights and allow video streaming for a significant cost reduction when compared to typical pricing. Ballard released a new hydrogen-fueled multirotor capable for flying much longer than traditional commercial multirotors.

PrecisionHawk unveiled a new product it calls PrecisionAnalytics. The new program was designed for energy, delivering aerial insights and providing artificial intelligence for several end-use sectors including the utility, renewables and oil and gas markets.

While previous events the past few years provided industry participants a chance to discuss the stalled status of regulations or policy, this year’s mood has shown a shift among the industry that is more focused now on the technical abilities of technology and how new tweaks in propellers, gimbals, sensors, power sources or software are making the difference for drone users in their efforts to ramp up commercially viable and economically advantageous operations.

The BVLOS event agenda and information is listed below: 

12:00 PM – 12:15 PM – Opening Remarks

UAS Magazine 

12:15 PM – 12:45 PM – North Dakota: Leading the Way in UAS

Speakers: Mr. James Leiman, North Dakota Department of Commerce; Mr. Nicholas Flom, Executive Director, Northern Plains UAS Test Site

North Dakota has a long and rich history of innovation and development in aviation. As the next generation of air vehicles, from small UAS to air taxis begin to take flight, the state is investing in infrastructure and innovation through its academia and business drivers to provide continued leadership for the advancement of aviation and transportation. 

12:45 PM – 1:00 PM – Networking Break

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM – Powering the UAS Economy

Moderator:James Leiman, North Dakota Department of Commerce

Speakers: Thomas Swoyer, President and CEO, Grand Sky Development Corporation; Nicholas Flom, Executive Director, Northern Plains UAS Test Site; George Kirov, Vice President & General Manager, Harris Commercial UAS; Mark Askelson, University of North Dakota

The creation of a UAS economy involves research, operations, commerce and business development. Various business models including public-private partnerships and academic grants have been successful incubators for the development of a UAS economy. As the next generation of air vehicles take flight, hear how early leaders have carved a framework for a successful business model and participation with academic and state entities. 

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM – Networking Break 

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM – Real World BVLOS: Enabling BVLOS Operations Through Aviation Technology and Safety

Moderator: Matt Dunlevy, President, SkySkopes

Speakers: Trevor Woods, Director of Safety, Northern Plains UAS Test Site; Jim Williams, President, JHW Unmanned; Jim Cieplak, Principal UAS Specialist, Harris Commercial UAS; Will Lovett, President, Phoenix Air Unmanned

Operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) involves the combination of technology, process, people and regulation. How does it all fit together to create a safe and legal operation? By leveraging aviation standards in technology and safety practices, the path to BVLOS can be charted and refined as industry and regulators work together to create the foundations for the future of next generation air vehicles.