The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that public safety organizations that use drones can now apply for a waiver that allows the fly the unmanned aircraft beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS).
Drone line-of-sight waiver for public safety announced by FAA
During part II of the FAA UAS Symposium, the FAA released a BVLOS waiver guide for first responders and public safety organizations. Once the waiver is granted to an organization, the drone flights that will go beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) must comply with a number of spatial regulations and can only be performed when absolutely necessary.
In the guide that has been released by the FAA, you can learn about a number of situations that might allow for BVLOS drone flights, according to Aviation Pros.
“In a time of extreme emergencies to safeguard human life,” the guide reads, “first responders require the capability to operate their unmanned aircraft (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to assess the operational environment such as a fire scene at a large structural fire, to conduct an aerial search on a large roof area for a burglary in progress, or to fly over a heavily forested area to look for a missing person.”
The FAA requires that when a drone is flown beyond-visual-line-of-sight the aircraft cannot be further away from the pilot than 1,500 feet. In addition the drone cannot be flown “any higher than 50 feet above or greater than 400 feet laterally of the nearest obstacle.”
According to Christopher Todd, who is the executive director of the Airborne International Response Team, the new waiver “was the culmination of over nine months of work” undertaken by A number of different parties, including DRONERESPONDERS, York County Fire and Life Safety, Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego Integration Pilot Program.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a tweet that the FAA “tackle the technical challenges of scaling BVLOS to make it routine and economically viable.”
It is very good news for the first responders and public safety organizations that the FAA allows for the line-of-sight requirement to be waived when absolutely necessary as it can be very difficult during emergency operations to always maintain line of sight. For instance, last year a local fire commissioner in Colorado explained the challenge of maintaining line of sight with a drone during A rescue operation that involved a stranded kayaker near mountainous terrain.
BVLOS drone flights have been approved by the FAA in the past, for instance State Farm announced in 2019 that it was the first company to receive a ‘national waiver’ for BVLOS drone flights that are related to “catastrophic assessments.”
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