BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations method presents a huge opportunity for the drone industry.
The many advantages of using unmanned aerial systems operations to perform precise, repetitive, or dangerous tasks are clear. Drone flight without range limits is an inevitable advancement.
The ongoing global pandemic has brought the medium to long-term arrival of BVLOS operations onto our doorsteps today.
However, aviation regulators are still grappling with how to enable commercial BVLOS drone flights under their watchful eyes.
This is a major regulatory hurdle. While most observers understand that it is simply a matter of time until BVLOS drone operations are an everyday sight all over the world, it will not happen magically.
For example, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation is very strict and conservative, and for a good reason. Actually, all around the world, Civil Aviation Authorities require that drones must always be flown within the pilot’s visual line of sight. Without proper approval, flying BVLOS operations where drones fly long distances is only allowed with special approvals like Part 107 waivers issued under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). So, it is not enough to simply own a drone with advanced flying, planning, and environmental awareness capabilities. You will have to actively address very specific BVLOS safety requirements in a new or upgraded unmanned aerial system.
The BVLOS drone flying challenge – BVLOS safety requirements for operating and monitoring unmanned aerial systems
Safely operating and monitoring unmanned aerial vehicles and its systems while transmitting valuable data in real-time are considered to be the fundamental challenges to BVLOS operations in civilian airspace.
Drone communication is powered by multi-layer connectivity enhancements. But the industry still does not have a perfect, hybrid drone connectivity model, and regulators know this. BVLOS certification will not be granted by regulators if the drone has communication failures.
Every communication technology has its pros and cons. The biggest con of most communication technology, is it lacks the capability to connect to all services causing communication failure. The solution is to create a robust communications net around BVLOS flights is to use bonding technology, which seeks to connect every available link and wan services in the area to improve communication survivability.
The BVLOS drone operation challenges
Regulators will not hesitate to reject flight applications for drones with inadequate security measures. Developing drone technologies that answer to the main requirements of safe BVLOS operation is important:
- Connectivity: Drones need unbroken connectivity for better control. This means that developing a drone system that facilitates always-on connectivity is a must.
- Security: Maintaining on-board data security is a real concern, with malicious threat actors able to intercept data streams and disturb transmission. If video, audio, and data communications are interrupted, BVLOS drones can become unsafe.
- Design quality: BVLOS drones also need to be highly efficient in design and build. All but the most compact, lightweight, and low-heat signature models with intelligent power use will fall into common design traps.
The list of possible future BVLOS applications is endless. The next frontier of drone use is upon us sooner than we imagined.
What is required on the part of drone operators and manufacturers is a deliberate move towards safe BVLOS drone flight.
If the current generation of drones is to be up to the task, they must be upgraded to meet the requirements of regulators. This means that improved and fit-for-purpose hardware and software are at a premium.
The solution: Halo connectivity platform by Elsight
Elsight’s class-leading Halo Technology answers all the questions asked of safe BVLOS flight.
- Bandwidth & Redundancy: Halo technology provides a solution to the problem of limited connectivity over large ranges. By fusing together multiple IP links (Cellular & RF) in a given location, Halo maintains a network tunnel that continues to transmit data such as video, audio, and telemetry.
- Fully encrypted security: Halo encrypts the data, splits it into packets, and transmits the packets over multiple links. They are re-combined and decrypted at the destination. This provides high levels of security in real-time and answers one of the fundamental concerns around BVLOS.
- Failover protection: Halo’s algorithm proactively diagnoses failed transmission channels in its path and effortlessly selects the best channel over which to transmit.
Halo’s Modular hybrid wan solution can support multiple communications links and has been tested over 2000 hours of operations. To date, 15 company integrations on over 50 platforms have been completed with Halo.
Elsight enables drone operators to fly over urban areas and out of the line of sight. Halo is on the cusp of becoming the first connectivity solution natively incorporated into a drone. The time to adopt Halo technology is now.
How do you apply for BVLOS certification?
The exact process for BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) certification will vary depending on location, but in most jurisdictions it will involve the local civil aviation authority – in the United States this is the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Typically, operators wishing to fly their drone BVLOS will need to submit extensive paperwork, including a thorough risk assessment, concept of operations (CONOPS), and details of the safety equipment used by the drone.