FAA Grants Waiver for BVLOS UAS Operations in North Dakota
Friday, August 23, 2019 | Comments

Airbus Aerial was granted a waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations in Grand Forks, North Dakota, without the need for a visual observer.

The waiver allows Airbus Aerial to conduct such operations as part of the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP), a public–private partnership sponsored by the FAA to help define the regulatory framework for drone operations and their integration into the national airspace system.

“Waivers to this magnitude are not achieved unless you have an innovative team of partners that are extremely dedicated, working for the advancement of UAS integration initiatives while keeping safety at the forefront,” said Russ Buchholz, UAS program administrator for NDDOT’s IPP.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected NDDOT as one of 10 state, local or tribal entities to participate in the FAA’s UAS IPP. The North Dakota team is working to safely incorporate UAS technology in three core challenge areas: conducting flights over people, night operations and BVLOS operations without the need for visual observers.

The Airbus Aerial work will focus on working with Xcel Energy to deploy a SenseFly eBee Plus fixed-wing UAS to fly BVLOS over the right of ways of Xcel Energy’s distribution networks in residential neighborhoods. This work will help the utility industry appropriately assess and use UAS and enjoy the benefits of a cost-effective and scalable program across an entire network.

BVLOS/operation over people operations are the only way to appreciate a significant increase in return on investment (ROI) with UAS technology, a statement said.

A novel methodology was used in the application for waivers from the FAA through the work by North Dakota’s IPP team. The approach is multipronged and advances operations through risk mitigations and reliability metrics by greatly expanding on previously approved waivers and expanding operational envelopes. Underlying this approach is a reusable and adaptable framework to accelerate aircraft/operation waiver approvals using a quantifiable risk-based methodology.

The NDDOT manages more than 8.622 roadway miles of highway and 1,722 state bridges, as well as provides driver’s license and motor vehicle services.

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