Scaling commercial BVLOS drone delivery – Is it all about UAV regulation?

By Roee Kashi CTO | January 26th, 2021

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Paving the way for Commercial-scale BVLOS drone deliveries

It sounds like the ultimate in modern convenience, a science-fiction concept come to life – BVLOS drone delivery, direct to your door. The nascent industry for delivery UAVs has the potential to revolutionize not just online shopping and last-mile logistics. It also makes the supply of hospitals, offshore vessels, and hard-to-reach areas (such as remote communities and disaster-struck regions) accessible.

In addition to providing enhanced accessibility compared to manned aircraft and road vehicles, delivery drones could cut down air pollution and road congestion once adopted widely. Unmanned aerial vehicles can also provide highly efficient service, as their maneuverability and small size allow distributors to cut out the middleman. Moreover, this reduces product costs as goods can be sent straight from the warehouse to the final end-recipient.


How Covid-19 made the industry skyrocket?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerate the development of drone delivery services. This technology allows for contact-free delivery and lessens people’s need to leave the house, making it perfect for social distancing. Some drones do not even need to land in order to deliver their cargo, using a quick-release tether system to release a package while hovering in the air.


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Getting drone delivery off the ground

While the technologies already exist, setting up a drone delivery business is not as easy as strapping a package to a drone and wishing it bon voyage. Many countries either:


  • Limit commercial drone operations solely to visual line-of-sight (VLOS).
  • Require an extensive BVLOS certification and proven process for operations that wish to go beyond this limit.
  • Approve drone delivery services only in segregated airspace that is not shared with other air traffic and does not pass over populated areas.


The most important goal of countries and regulators is minimizing the risk of collision and injury in shared airspace and when flying over people.

VLOS flights limit the delivery range to a distance of only around 500 meters from the operator. Regulations usually forbid the drone from passing behind buildings, trees, and other obstacles. Constricting drone flights to segregated airspace or a designated flight corridor is clearly not practical, especially in urban areas where manned aircraft are plentiful and drones may have to make deliveries anywhere within the region.


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In order for a drone delivery service to be scalable, sustainable, and economically viable, aircraft must be free to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and in shared airspace. This level of integration into everyday operations and infrastructure requires a huge amount of safety protocols, and aviation bodies have struggled to smoothly incorporate drones into their regulatory frameworks.


Scaling drone deliveries on a commercial level

Slow though it may be, the good news is that the wheels are turning and the groundwork is being laid piece by piece. Some aviation agencies such as the United States FAA beyond visual line of sight have begun to approve BVLOS drone operations on a case-by-case basis, subject to proof that the platform meets a series of rigorous standards.

Right now, only a small percentage of requests for authorization are approved, but if you can put forward a solid case for your drone delivery platform being safe, reliable, and up to spec, your chances of being certified will increase.


Halo – a comprehensive connectivity solution for BVLOS delivery drones

Other than a robust Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) solution, the key to safe BVLOS drone delivery operations in both urban and rural areas is a reliable never-fail communications and connectivity solution. You need to be sure that your delivery drones can achieve close to 100% uptime, especially in cities and populated areas where failure carries a high risk of injury to the populace.


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Rural areas and long-distance operations also pose their own share of challenges. Delivery drones traveling over great distances may pass through a variety of environments each with differing communications options, and regulators will need to know that your platform can continue to operate seamlessly and safely no matter where it travels.


Getting ahead of regulation with reliable C2 communication

Elsight’s Halo platform is a versatile solution to the challenges of BVLOS delivery drone connectivity. It automatically aggregates all available cellular-based services (and RF if needed) in any environment, creating a secure communications tunnel, and selecting the most suitable networks at any given moment. Halo allows you to establish always-on C2 and data link capabilities for your delivery drones, no matter their distance and location.

Halo provides you with the means to safely and legally establish your drone delivery business. Whether you plan to provide local last-mile services or have the ambition to establish a network of autonomous delivery flights spanning a wider area. It features unlimited range and unlimited scalability, with the issues of safety and failproof connectivity taken care of by our proprietary 6th sense technology.

The door is now officially open to making your operations as efficient and economically viable as possible.


How does SWaP affect drones?

Drones will have a particular SWaP (size, weight, and power) budget for their onboard systems and the payloads they may carry. Some equipment will be physically too large or heavy for the drone to lift off with, and others will drain the battery life too quickly for the drone to have a useful flight time.


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