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Field Test of Drones by FAA Starts

The US Federal Aviation Administration said earlier this month that field testing of small Drones traffic management in areas below 400 feet will begin this spring. The testing will extend until 2023. The outcomes of the tests could have far-reaching implications for industrial users. The FAA will utilise the results of the testing to generate new policies and assist industry groups in developing revised standards that will allow to fly beyond their operators’ visual line of sight, or BVLOS, while remaining outside of air traffic management.

Multiple Drones flights will be conducted in realistic test settings by the FAA and industry partners to understand how to control traffic in various locations. The primary goal is to figure out how to safely integrate into national airspace. In June 2021, the agency established a BVLOS Aviation rulemaking group to develop regulations for regular flights that are safe, scalable, and economically feasible when not under air traffic control.

According to a representative for Fierce Electronics, such flights are allowed today with waivers or exemptions, and the FAA has approved around 189 waivers for BVLOS operations. Drones pilots must submit a thorough risk analysis as well as a risk-mitigation plan. “Waiver application evaluations and approvals for these types of sophisticated activities can take a long time to ensure the operation can be carried out safely,” the spokeswoman noted.

For years, industrial Drones users have pushed for BVLOS operations, seeing the potential for GPS mapping and AI to direct when they are out of sight of pilots. In a disaster response scenario, for example, it may be necessary to fly over a region that is difficult to reach on foot and is out of sight of the operator. With BVLOS, package delivery by can cover longer distances, boosting the service’s economic benefit.

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