As increasing numbers of geospatial professionals realize the potential for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations in drone applications, the topic has become an important discussion point across the industry. Here, we ask Pierre-Alain Marchand, Regulatory Compliance Manager at senseFly, how BVLOS will affect unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) use in the geospatial space and the opportunities it will present in the future.
What is your role at senseFly?
I oversee and ensure the compliance of all senseFly products, such as drones, cameras and accessories, with international Civil Aviation Authorities’ regulatory standards, as well as current electronic certifications, including FCC, CE and IC. I also lead the airworthiness certification process in all required countries and regions for standard and advanced operations, including EVLOS, BVLOS and safe Operation over People (OOP).
What is BVLOS?
Flights that are operated beyond the visual range, enabling UAVs to cover much greater distances. Thanks to advances in technology, as well as ongoing trials, demos and data collection, BVLOS operations have progressed significantly in recent years – presenting a viable opportunity for geospatial professionals to further their drone use. There is, however, a learning curve, as the industry is constantly developing its processes and gathering more highly geoaccurate data and insight on how to optimize UAVs for this type of operation.
How has BVLOS changed UAVs?
By furthering our knowledge of BVLOS, we will enable UAVs to become more advanced. As a result, fixed-wing drones, in particular, have become better equipped for BVLOS operations, offering improved battery life, optimized motors and safe airframes that have been verified through rigorous impact testing.
Is BVLOS widely used?
Thanks to recent advances in technology, drones now have the endurance to safely fly further and map larger areas, broadening the potential for more complex BVLOS applications and offering cost, time and operational efficiencies. Although regulations remain stringent in some areas, operators are seeing BVLOS become more accessible globally. For instance, last year the national civil aviation authority of Brazil (ANAC) approved BVLOS flights to be carried out for the first time in the country’s history, marking a pivotal point in Brazil’s commercial drone industry – and paving the way for other countries to follow suit.
What are the barriers BVLOS must overcome?
Facilitating greater public acceptance and improving scalability are currently the biggest challenges for beyond visual line of sight operations. Overcoming these barriers will be key to allowing more geospatial professionals to expand the opportunities available for growing their drone fleet. It is, therefore, crucial to gather as much data and knowledge as possible to establish a robust framework and define risk models for shaping safe, fit-for-purpose BVLOS operations.
What opportunities does BVLOS present?
There is potential, in the future, for people to take on a management role, rather than a piloting one, to lead the way in autonomous BVLOS flights. This would help save companies valuable costs and resources. At the same, we will see more sophisticated detect and avoid systems and communication technologies to ensure safer, smoother integration with other air traffic. Although the drone sector has already evolved significantly in the last decade, BVLOS will help progress drone technology even further. Collecting more data, through a continued commitment to trials and partnerships with authorizing bodies, will help achieve this, as will building on regulations that support safe BVLOS operations.
What does the regulatory outlook look like to you?
The regulatory outlook is increasingly positive; European regulations, as well as laws implemented by Transport Canada and the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), look set to move towards better accommodating this type of flight. These steps will be an important enabler for advanced operations and geospatial professionals across the world, as they help to lead the way in drone technology.
For more information about how senseFly drones, please visit senseFly.com or contact your local authorized senseFly distributor.