New report shows we are moving closer to beyond line of sight UAS operations

By Luke Geiver | December 21, 2016


With the FAA’s Pathfinder program participant’s recent update on operating an unmanned aircraft vehicle beyond visual line of sight, the many companies and groups interested in and hoping for the opportunity to commercially fly BVLOS in the U.S. are much closer to that reality than they were one year ago.

This month, Precisionhawk updated us on their second phase of research to determine (or at least help too) what a feasible and safe BVLOS operation might entail. The team created a series of tests to illuminate the benefits or challenges of relying on visual observers for extended range flights. They also tested the accuracy of a pilot’s ability to fly BVLOS with or without technological aid.

Per the report: Precisionhawk’s Phase 2 report identifies the operational risk associated with visual detection of an incoming aircraft and the ability to make a safety decision while operating a drone beyond visual line of sight. The report concludes that due to human variation, technology assist is critical to make the safety case of BVLOS flight.

“While we believe that technology would be useful for a beyond line of sight flight, we needed a quantitative answer as to whether it would simply make the user’s life easier or it actually impacted the safety of the operation,” said Allison Ferguson, director of airspace research for Precisionhawk. “The FAA needs a clear understanding of the risks associated with advanced drone operations and this testing sets the visual baseline that we can measure the level of safety against as we add enabling technologies.”

There is much more to the report, and I urge you to check it out here. But, even without reading it, rest assured that more is being done now than ever to put UAS operators closer to flying BVLOS. There is actual testing of ideas and protocol creation happening now that wasn’t happening before.