The New York Power Authority (NYPA announced that it received its first federal approval to conduct unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or Skydio drone operations beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the pilot in command.
This Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waiver enables NYPA to conduct fully remote drone operations for infrastructure inspections and to improve worker safety.
Specifically, this extended drone capability will allow the company to conduct asset and vegetative management inspections at its Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project located in Schoharie County.
NYPA is an industry leader in asset management strategies and is part of an Authority-wide digitization initiative to modernize grid infrastructure to advance the efficient delivery of clean power statewide.
This BVLOS waiver represents a significant step forward for NYPA's drone program as it continues to support the company's digitization initiative.
“Drones will become an even more valuable tool as we expand our capability to detect infrastructure issues and support our mapping and land management responsibilities,” said Justin E. Driscoll, New York Power Authority Acting president and CEO. “Being able to capture images remotely, regardless of weather conditions or distances, will allow us to track and evaluate our assets more efficiently and safely.”
This waiver now allows operators to conduct operations without the requirement for the pilot or an observer to see the unmanned aircraft or to scan the surrounding airspace throughout the entire flight. However, the routes must be pre-planned, and the drone must remain within 50 feet above ground level or within 50 feet of structures.
FAA Waiver for Skydio drones
The FAA waiver was obtained with the help of Skydio, a U.S. drone and software manufacturer that provided equipment and advisory services.
NUAIR provided a safe testing environment and safety case development, conducting test flights and training for NYPA at the New York UAS test site.
The waiver, which is specific to Skydio drones, authorizes operations through 2027 and grants NYPA the capability to conduct remote operations from other locations without an on-site pilot or visual observer.
NYPA's extensive in-house drone program is researching and testing new applications to implement drones more fully into day-to-day utility operations while maintaining the highest standards of aviation professionalism and safety.
More than 40 employees are now trained as Part 107 certified drone pilots, and work on projects ranging from vegetation management to line inspection to project monitoring.
This recent FAA waiver is a significant development for the company as it enables more efficient and thorough infrastructure inspections and improved worker safety.
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