What is BVLOS?
BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) refers to the operation of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) at distances where the
pilot is no longer able to observe the aircraft with the naked eye. It can be considered as the third and final range of
The first range is VLOS (visual line of sight), where the aircraft is always directly visible to the pilot. The second is
EVLOS (extended visual line of sight), which enhances the range of drone operations by using one or more trained
observers to ensure that the drone is always in the direct sight of a human being.
While EVLOS provides an improvement over standard VLOS, it will eventually be limited by the practicality and
logistics of chaining together the observation abilities of a number of people over large distances.
Why go BVLOS?
VLOS operations typically limit the distance that the drone can travel from the pilot to around 500m (and in many jurisdictions,
500m is coded into regulations as a maximum allowable distance). This means that if a pilot wishes to extend their mission
beyond this range, they will have to pack up their drone and equipment, and redeploy to a new location in order to work in another
area with only a 500 m radius.
This continual redeployment translates into vast amounts of inefficiency and wasted time, and ultimately is not at all practical for
many commercial drone use cases, such as package delivery and large-scale mapping and surveying.
In order to unlock the true economic potential of commercial drone operations at scale, drone flights must shift to BVLOS. This
will allow drones to achieve more in a single flight, and will ultimately allow operators to expand from limited numbers of piloted
drone missions to long-distance fully autonomous drone fleets, providing maximum cost-effectiveness.
Common BVLOS challenges and how to overcome them
The essentials of BVLOS
Without the watchful eyes of a pilot or other human observers within visual range, a BVLOS
drone platform requires extra solutions that will allow it to avoid collisions with both fixed
obstacles and other flying aircraft. While FPV (first-person view) equipment can be used to
transmit a live camera feed of the surrounding area back to an operator, this option
provides limited depth perception and peripheral vision. More sophisticated technologies
include fully automated detect-and-avoid solutions such as Iris Automation’s Casia, which
combines an array of cameras with state-of-the-art computer vision and machine learning.
A remote identification solution such as ADS-B (Automatic Dependence Surveillance and
Broadcast) may also be required in order to provide real-time position and speed updates
to ATC (air traffic control) and UTM (unmanned traffic management) centres. Remote
identification also allows law enforcement and other agencies to locate drone operators in
case of an emergency.
One of the most essential safety aspects is the ability to maintain communication
and control of your drone at all times. The BVLOS connectivity section below provides more
information on the requirements for a robust communications and data link.
With the extra subsystems required for BVLOS drone platforms, designing to a SWaP (size,
weight and power) budget can be challenging. This design challenge is compounded by
the fact that many BVLOS drones will now be expected to fly further and for longer.
In order to save SWaP capacity on a new BVLOS drone design, developers may be able to
offload some of the work usually performed by onboard systems to an external cloud
service. Features that can benefit from cloud services include power-hungry image and
sensor data processing, and tasks that involve artificial intelligence or machine learning.
Once your drone design has been finalised, the next hurdle along your path to BVLOS
operation is gaining approval from your jurisdiction’s aviation authority.
In many jurisdictions around the world, BVLOS operations are limited by strict regulations,
and gaining approval is currently a highly involved process. The United States Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), for example, turns down more than 99% of requests for the
Part 107 rules waivers that would permit a drone operator to fly BVLOS.
Aviation regulation bodies are famously strict when it comes to safety, and even more so
when it comes to the relatively immature drone industry. The key to successful BVLOS
approval lies in presenting a thorough and convincing safety case for your drone platform.
Applications will need to consider in detail how control of the drone will be maintained at all
times, how potential collisions will be detected and avoided, and what risk mitigation plans
are in place in case of an emergency.
Regulators place a significant emphasis on robust command and control systems when it
comes to approving BVLOS drone operations. A successful application will require a proven
communications system with close to 100% uptime.
Ultra-reliable connectivity is of the utmost importance in both urban areas, where failure carries a high risk of injury and property
damage, and rural and remote areas, where communications networks may be sparse or may change often.
A BVLOS drone connectivity solution must be able to deal with multiple communications options and environments, and deliver
close to 100% uptime in order to ensure maximum safety and allow the drone to carry out its mission at all times without loss of
Radio-frequency connectivity can be easily jammed or hijacked, and suffers from range and line-of-sight issues that make it less
than ideal as a sole BVLOS connectivity solution. Satellite has excellent range, with wide coverage and excellent uptime, but has
latency issues and is comparatively expensive.
Cellular connectivity provides the necessary bandwidth, and the costs are non-prohibitive for drone operators. The one potential
downside is reliability issues associated with cellular provider low-connectivity zones or dead spots. This can be solved by
leveraging a multi-SIM solution that is linked to multiple cellular providers
Elsight’s Halo drone connectivity solution combines multiple flexible communication links with advanced bonding algorithms to
provide a modular, multi-network, agnostic communication solution that is ideal for BVLOS drone missions. It checks for
compromised channels arising from communications “dead zones”, and automatically reroutes to the most suitable channel for the needs of the mission.
This state-of-the-art connectivity solution provides a high degree of reliability and safety, boosting your chances of obtaining
regulatory certification for commercial BVLOS operations.
The Halo Value Investment program
Elsight’s Halo Value Investment Program (VIP) has been specially designed to set
drone companies up for success in expanding their operations from VLOS to BVLOS.
Available to drone manufacturers, service providers and technology firms around the
world, the Halo VIP includes a tailored SMART Start program with a step-by-step
onboarding and training process.
The SMART Start program culminates in the development of a successful
proof-of-concept that utilises the Halo connectivity platform, allowing developers to
quickly and seamlessly integrate the BVLOS connectivity solution into existing or
new drone systems. Once the proof-of-concept has been successfully established,
Elsight will continue to support your development with flexible, growth-based
agreements and volume discounts.
The VIP also includes expert assistance with fast-tracking your BVLOS regulatory
approval with regulators around the world, including the FAA and EASA.