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  • Writer's pictureIdo Yahalomi

Autonomous BVLOS: The Unmanned Path to Commercial Drone Success

It is hard to overstate the immense impact drones will play in our world. Of course, they’ve already had a sizable impact in our lives. In a short period of time, we've already become accustomed to that gentle whirring of propellers, bringing with it magical abilities to reach those places just beyond our reach. The size, flexibility, and oftentimes price of drones opens up limitless possibilities of what our future world will look like.

Except, as with any new technology, the path to ultimate success is dotted with obstacles and gray areas. An entirely new way of doing things means an entire new playbook of what is acceptable and what is not. What is deemed legal, and what is not. That’s when restrictions, certifications, and licenses come into play. This isn’t a bad thing per se. It gives new technology some boundaries and is meant to keep us all secure.

One of the first and foremost concepts that came about with drone technology is called BVLOS - Beyond Visual Line of Sight. Understanding this term and what it constitutes is the first step in realizing how crucial BVLOS is for our future.

Unwrapping BVLOS

The idea of an area beyond your line of sight is taken directly from aviation. In an airplane, pilots have the responsibility of scanning the skies to ensure no collision occurs. Despite the advanced technology on board, they’re always looking out the window for objects such as birds or other planes. Maintaining a visual line of sight is a key component of aviation, but obviously this is not possible from within a drone as there are no pilots inside these unmanned aircraft.

What is possible, is that drone pilots from the ground scan the sky while operating their drone. Similarly to aircraft pilots, they can scan the skies on the lookout for anything that may cause a collision. The area beyond where they can physically see is the aptly named “Beyond Visual Line of Sight.” From this point on the pilot can no longer see their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly called a drone - it is literally beyond their line of sight.

However, one of the major advantages of drones is the fact that you can fly it far away from where the pilot is to accomplish your goals. Without going beyond that visual line of sight, you greatly inhibit a key facet of drone flight. That’s why BVLOS isn’t outright illegal, it is simply restricted. Different countries have different regulations, but on a whole to be able to fly your drone far away you’ll need specific certification. Drone pilots without BVLOS certification can not operate their drones beyond where they can see them.

The concern here isn’t the hobbyist drone that someone flies away from their yard, but professional services that can involve larger drones and bigger payloads. The danger there is clear, and thus drone pilots need to be trained specifically on this to ensure safe skies for all.

No Pilot, Big Problem?

At this point you might be wondering why there is an issue with this at all. Simply hire a drone operator certified for BVLOS and the problem is solved. In some instances, you may be right. Yet, single pilots for drone operations have their own inherent drawbacks. For one, pilots add the human error element. Plus, they can be very costly, especially if you’re flying numerous drones at the same time and require multiple pilots. For these reasons and more, most businesses have begun using autonomous drone platforms.

While autonomous systems offer significant advantages for businesses, they do have one primary drawback - BVLOS. Whether it’s the FAA in the United States, or other regulatory agencies around the world, the topic of autonomous drones beyond the visual line of sight is one seeped in trepidation. For some regulators the very idea of relying on an automated system without the safety net of a human in the area will send them into a cold sweat. It could be a recipe for disaster.

Regulators, by their very nature, exercise an abundance of caution in any new endeavor where there may be the slightest of risk. This is why autonomous drones that are deemed safe to fly beyond the visual line of sight is the top of the pyramid. It means you’ve passed the highest bar possible in the industry today. Getting to this point isn’t just a commendable accomplishment - it is the linchpin in achieving the world with drones that we all imagine is possible.

Blazing a Flight Path

Unlocking the immense potential of drone technology is very much dependent on autonomous BVLOS drone flights. We want to see a future with drone-filled skies. Drones that deliver our pizza. Drones that bring us pretty much anything we’d like to order. They’ll cut down on traffic. They’ll cut down on pollution. They will free up our time and create an on-demand user experience. This is the future that businesses see too, and they know they’ll need drones to be a part of their future in order to compete.

In the thick of all the strangling regulations, a path is beginning to appear. It began with a regulatory change earlier this year, in anticipation of the right technology. Now the crucial technology that allows regulators to sleep easy and open up the world of tomorrow is here. It’s happening, and it’s incredibly exciting. There are only a handful of drone technology companies in the world that can meet these high standards, and High Lander is proud to be among those pioneering autonomous BVLOS flight.

Earlier this year, we received an official waiver certificate from the Israeli aviation authority that allows for High Lander-controlled drones to fly autonomously beyond the visual line of sight. We’ve already launched this platform at the Industrial Test Site in the central Israeli city of Caesarea. We’ll soon be bringing it to more sites around the country, and around the world. It’s an exciting achievement for our team, but it is an even bigger milestone for blazing the path to the drone-filled world we’d like to see. A world that seems like science fiction to some, is just around the corner, courtesy of autonomous drone technology.

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