Verizon Subsidiary Receives FAA Waiver to Fly Drones During Wildfire
Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Comments

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Skyward, a Verizon company, a temporary waiver that allows company pilots to fly the Percepto Sparrow drone from their homes to inspect critical communications infrastructure near the Big Hollow wildfire in Washington. The waiver permits operations 24 hours a day, with less than 3 miles of visibility and no pilot or observer on site.

With multiple natural disasters occurring throughout the United States, the ability to safely inspect sites that support critical communications for first responders has never been more important or necessary.

“At a moment when we are facing dangerous consequences of climate change and coping with a global pandemic, maintaining the Verizon Network has never been more important,” said Rima Qureshi, Verizon chief strategy officer. "Innovations in airborne technology have enhanced our ability to inspect our sites without putting engineers in harm's way and provide our first responders with reliable communications. We appreciate the FAA's swift action in granting the waiver, which allows us to deploy a network-connected drone and provide critical services safely and effectively."

Although the FAA can grant beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) waivers to businesses that prove they can fly safely, an on-site pilot or visual observer has still been generally required. In preparation for crises such as this, Skyward spent nearly a year testing and proving it could safely fly without on-site personnel. In addition to the ground-breaking nature of the flight, the waiver itself is a milestone for remote deployment of drones in the U.S.

The waiver was granted through the FAA’s expedited Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process. The waiver applies to drone support operations for critical infrastructure that maintain communications for emergency responders and extends until Friday, Sept. 25.

Since September 9, the Big Hollow Fire has burned more than 24,000 acres and caused mandatory evacuation orders in the area. The location of the critical communications infrastructure itself is within blocks of a Level 1 evacuation order, and the air quality was unsafe for humans. This operation not only allowed Verizon engineers to confirm the integrity and operability of its infrastructure was not impacted, it also allowed them to do so without putting people in harm’s way.

Verizon continues to closely monitor dozens of wildfires burning in the western U.S., and its network is currently performing well with no significant impacts to date.

The Verizon Response Team (VRT) is available 24/7 to provide on-demand, emergency assistance to first responders. The company is mobilizing charging stations, Wi-Fi hotspots, devices, special equipment, emergency vehicles and more to support local, state and federal agencies in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Would you like to comment on this story? Find our comments system below.



 
 
Post a comment
Name: *
Email: *
Title: *
Comment: *
 

Comments

No Comments Submitted Yet

Be the first by using the form above to submit a comment!

Site Navigation

Close