Expanding boundaries with BVLOS mapping and surveying

By Ben Gross | March 22nd, 2021

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Expanding boundaries with BVLOS mapping and surveying

The geospatial industry has been one of the most widespread and enthusiastic adopters of drone technology. When you consider the advantages drones bring to creating deliverables such as orthomosaic maps and 3D LiDAR point clouds, it’s easy to see why.

The use of drones for mapping and surveying allows GIS professionals to bring down project person-hours and costs compared to manned aircraft and lets specialists reduce their time in the field. Drones can take off from and land almost anywhere, with the ability to access hazardous and otherwise difficult-to-reach areas such as mountainous regions, coastlines, and volcanoes. They can also fly at lower altitudes and perform surveys faster with higher resolutions and less interference from weather conditions such as cloud cover.

Businesses across many industry verticals have come to understand the value of drone data, and these developing industries will, in turn, drive the advancement of drone technology. However, taking wide-scale aerial imagery collection to the next level will come with its share of teething issues.


Scaling up for BVLOS

For UAV mapping and surveying businesses to push the current limits of efficiency and profitability, drone operations must go Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). BVLOS operations will be the key to unlocking the next level of large-scale drone mapping and surveying, thus allowing drones for commercial use to capture more significant amounts of data in fewer flights.

Under many jurisdictions, drone operations are limited mainly to visual line-of-sight (VLOS) in urban and rural areas, meaning that the aircraft can only travel at most around 500 meters away from their operators. Given that many mapping and surveying projects involve large areas of many square miles, this means that drone pilots must spend significant amounts of time relocating to different points and unpacking and repacking equipment.

BVLOS flight will remove many bottlenecks to productivity, simplify the mapping of vast areas and long corridors of land, and potentially pave the way for fully automated operations. Currently, scaling up for BVLOS is a complex process that involves many hoops to jump through.


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Regulation and proving your case

The biggest hurdle facing the emerging BVLOS industry right now is regulation. While regulatory bodies around the world (the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and others) have begun to approve BVLOS flights on a case by case basis, however only a tiny percentage of the requests received make it through to operational flight.

Due to the limited amount of data on the safety and success of BVLOS operations, and the currently highly fluid state of development of regulations, a business looking to gain permission for BVLOS must present a specific and compelling safety case. Aviation regulators, already highly risk-averse, are playing it extra-safe with the disruptive technologies that will allow drones to scale up to limitless operations.

One of the critical concerns in assessing the safety of BVLOS drone flight is reliable connectivity. If you can assure that your long-range drone includes a failsafe communications system, especially for data gathering in urban areas and critical zones such as construction sites, your chances of gaining certification will increase significantly.


Halo – the key to safe and secure long-range operations

The mapping and surveying of large areas will mean that your drone will pass through various communications environments and contend with switching between different networks and protocols. Until now, no communications solution was able to offer a robust way to deal with this challenge in a way that provides close to 100% connectivity and uptime.


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Elsight’s Halo platform provides a powerful solution to the problem of failover and inconsistent communications. Automatically aggregating all the available networks (3G/4GLTE/5G*/RF) at any time in any location, the flexible, lightweight system utilizes SASE security through a secure communication tunnel that always selects the most suitable options for your needs. Halo’s unique Sixth Sense bonding capability constantly utilizes and monitors all available links, checking for compromised channels.

Halo will also provide BVLOS mapping and surveying drones with a reliable, efficient way to send captured data back to base or to a cloud computing center, allowing data to be processed even faster. For autonomous operations, Halo can also allow you to offload processing for functions such as navigation and detect-and-avoid to the cloud, thus reducing the SWaP footprint of your drone design.


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As the industry adapts to the new demands arising from the need to scale up for BVLOS, now is the time to think about developing your certifiable drone platform. Whether you want to provide large-scale geospatial data collection, long-distance corridor mapping, or construction surveying, Elsight can help you seamlessly integrate Halo into your UAS unmanned platform, saving development time and costs and allowing you to be first to market.


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