NYPA Expands Drone Program with FAA Waiver for BVLOS Ops

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has announced a significant expansion of its drone program, having obtained a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct drone operations beyond the visual line of sight () of the pilot in command. This waiver, valid through 2028, allows NYPA to fly unmanned aircraft systems within a one-mile radius in unrestricted, or Class G, airspace without prior approval.

Enhancing Asset Monitoring and Inspection

The FAA-approved waiver is expected to greatly enhance NYPA's ability to monitor and inspect its transmission, generation, and canal assets throughout the state. By eliminating the requirement for the pilot or an observer to maintain visual contact with the drone, NYPA can now conduct remote inspections more efficiently and safely.

NYPA Expands Drone Program with FAA Waiver for BVLOS Ops

According to NYPA President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll, “The FAA-approved waiver will further expand the Power Authority's asset inspection capabilities. NYPA is now well positioned as an energy industry leader to showcase the many uses for in our day-to-day electric utility operations.”

Collaboration with Skydio

NYPA obtained the waiver with the help of , a U.S. drone and software manufacturer. The waiver is specific to Skydio drones, including the Skydio X10, which features advanced autonomy and obstacle avoidance capabilities.

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Jakee Stoltz, Skydio Regulatory Program Manager, emphasized the importance of drones in infrastructure inspection and monitoring, stating, “This approval includes the Skydio X10, with upgraded Skydio Autonomy and obstacle avoidance, which enables NYPA to maintain critical infrastructure with greater confidence without the need for an expert pilot.”

Investing in Robotics Technology

NYPA has significantly invested in its robotics program in recent years, recognizing the potential of drones to safely and quickly inspect critical assets. The Power Authority plans to invest more than $37 million in its drone program through 2028.

Peter Kalaitzidis, NYPA Robotics Program Manager, highlighted the benefits of integrating advanced robotics technology into their operations, saying, “By integrating advanced robotics technology into our operations, we can enhance our infrastructure's reliability and performance, ensuring the delivery of clean energy to 's grid.”

Expanding Drone Applications

NYPA's extensive in-house drone program is actively researching and testing new applications to implement drone use in day-to-day utility operations. Drones are currently being used at various NYPA sites throughout the state for tasks such as asset health monitoring, transmission line inspection, vegetation management, and spillway erosion mapping.

The Power Authority has also significantly increased the number of trained drone pilots on its staff, with more than 100 employees now certified, up from 40 last year.

The FAA waiver granting NYPA permission to conduct BVLOS drone operations marks a significant milestone in the Power Authority's efforts to leverage advanced technology for more efficient and safer asset management. By expanding its drone capabilities, NYPA is positioning itself as a leader in the energy industry, demonstrating the numerous applications of drone technology in day-to-day electric utility operations while ensuring the reliable delivery of clean energy to New York's grid.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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