GO BVLOS WITH ELSIGHT

Elsight provides the BVLOS and critical communications technologies required to operate drones and unmanned vehicles beyond visual line of sight

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 to be the third and final range of drone operations.

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 along the flight path, equipped with radios. These additional personnel ensure that the drone is always within the direct sight of a human being, and can communicate critical information to the pilot.

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.

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Visual line of sight Extended line of sight Beyond the visual line of sight
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Why go BVLOS?

VLOS operations typically limit the distance that the drone can travel from the pilot to around 500 meters. While this distance can vary according to weather and other visibility conditions, 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 meter radius.

This continual redeployment translates into vast amounts of inefficiency and wasted time, and is ultimately not practical or commercially viable for many drone use cases, such as package delivery, large-scale precision agriculture, mapping, and surveying of critical infrastructure such as roads and railways.

In addition to the distance limitation, VLOS flight prohibits drones from being able to operate behind buildings, trees, and other obstacles that block the pilot’s line of sight, even if the aircraft is still within 500 meters of the pilot in a straight line. This makes operations in areas such as urban regions extremely tricky.

In order to unlock the true economic potential of commercial drone operations and allow the industry to scale beyond its current limitations, drone flights must shift to beyond visual line of sight. 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.

Go BVLOS with Elsight

Common BVLOS challenges and how to overcome them

Safety

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 to detect and react to any potential obstacles or hazards that may pose a safety threat.

Airspace awareness solutions such as ADS-B (Automatic Dependence Surveillance and Broadcast) or Remote ID may also be required in order to provide real-time position and speed updates to ATC (air traffic control) and UTM (unmanned traffic management) centers. Remote ID also allows law enforcement and other agencies to locate drone operators in case of an incident or emergency, providing both accountability and traceability.

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.

Low-SWaP design

With the extra subsystems required for BVLOS drone platforms, designing to meet a restricted 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. This data transmission is likely to require a high-bandwidth drone datalink that provides an extremely high degree of reliability.

Regulatory approval

Once your drone design has been finalized, the next hurdle along your path to BVLOS operation is gaining approval from your jurisdiction’s aviation authority, such as the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

In many jurisdictions around the world, BVLOS operations are limited by strict regulations, and gaining approval is currently a highly involved process. The 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, which brings a number of issues and requirements that are distinct to those of manned aviation. The key to successful FAA 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 even under changing communications environments, 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.

Critical connectivity with Elsight

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 incorporate 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 data transmission.

Unlicensed radio-frequency (RF) communication 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. SATCOM terminals are also typically larger and heavier than other communications equipment, making them unsuitable for smaller drone platforms.

Cellular connectivity provides the necessary bandwidth, and the costs are non-prohibitive for drone operators. Cellular modems also provide minimal impact upon the SWaP budgets of a wide range of drone platforms. 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 flights. Featuring the ability to accept up to four SIM cards from multiple providers, and options to add satellite and RF communications, it checks for compromised channels arising from communications “dead zones”, and automatically reroutes to the most suitable channel for the needs of the mission. In addition, these multiple datalinks can be aggregated to maximize the amount of available throughput.

This state-of-the-art connectivity solution provides a high degree of reliability and safety, boosting your chances of obtaining regulatory certification for commercial beyond visual line of sight drone operations.

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 flights. 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 beyond visual line of sight drone operations.

Learn more
Smart Start with the Halo
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Smart Start - personalized onboarding
Expedited POC process
Flexible, growth based aggrements & volume discounts
Increased BVLOS capabilities
BVLOS regulation fast track & assistance
Fully enabled autonomy / semi autonomy
Profitability enhancement
Success assurance - Dedicated support team
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Related Resources

Guidebook - BVLOS SWaP Guide

All you need to know about drone SWaP tradeoffs - It's time to get your drone ready for BVLOS with the optimal size, weight and power balance

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Ebook: BVLOS across the drone industry

The most informative BVLOS vertical ebook that will help you go from limited LOS to exponential business growth

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On-Demand Webinar: Scaling BVLOS UAV operations

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BVLOS

Frequently Asked Questions

What are beyond visual line of sight drones?

 Beyond Visual Line of Sight (or BVLOS) drones are unmanned aircraft that are operated, as their name suggests, outside the line-of-sight limits of the human operator. At this range, the pilot or operator has no visual reference to the drone being operated.

Can you operate your drone outside of your line-of-sight vision?

Yes. Using Elsight’s Halo cellular connectivity solution, you can operate your drone well outside VLOS and EVLOS ranges (assuming that you have obtained legal authorization to do so). Halo provides you with complete connection confidence to ensure you have total command and control over your drone over long distances and under varying communications environments.

What type of technology is required for beyond visual line of sight flight?

 BVLOS flight requires a number of main technological elements. The first is a command and control (C2) element, which allows you to pilot the drone and “see” where the drone at all times. The second is a robust communication solution, like Elsight’s Halo, which ensures that you will never lose control of the drone you are operating. A robust DAA (detect-and-avoid) solution is also crucial for obstacle and hazard avoidance and safe operations.

Until what point does the pilot/operator still have a visual reference to the drone?

 

Visual Line Of Sight, or VLOS, is approximately 500 meters from the pilot/operator, depending on weather and other visual conditions. Extended Visual Line Of Sight (EVLOS) is the range from beyond the pilot’s unaided vision to the distance at which the UAV is still within sight of at least one of the trained observers along the route.

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