As the drone industry grows, beyond visual line of sight operations (BVLOS) continue to be an important topic. Different industries have show an interest in the potential around new ways to use drones, while some countries have granted the very first BVLOS licenses.

Whether you’re using a drone for surveying, mapping, inspections, construction work, search & rescue or any other type of operation, BVLOS flights can represent a more cost-effective solution. The main advantage is that you can cover a larger area without the need of observers, or the pilot moving around to keep an eye on the drone.

The biggest concern with BVLOS is safety, which is why it isn't fully implemented yet. Safety of the public and the manned airspace traffic is of critical importance. As Tony Albanese said in this interview, “the technology needed for detect and avoid and communications command and control are not mature enough to be viable as a BVLOS enabler.” Getting there is going to be a process, but the industry as a whole is point in the right direction as companies have begun to show process on a technology and regulatory level.

In the past 6 months, we have covered different events that have helped the industry in this regard. Switzerland and Denmark are granting their first BVLOS licenses. The FAA’s focus on this matter is developing, and BVLOS operations are being designed to work within a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) System. Last month, Aeryon’s sUAS SkyRanger made the first beyond visual line of sight flight in Canada. Chosen by Ventus Geospatial Inc. and Canadian Unmanned Inc, and tested through different trials at the Foremost UAS Range, SkyRanger proved that BVLOS flight operations can be performed safely and legally with drones under 25kg (55 lb).

“Transport Canada continues to be a progressive airspace regulator, establishing standards and guidelines, like BVLOS, that enable safe UAS operations within Canada,” commented Dave Kroetsch, President & CEO, Aeryon Labs. “Aeryon is proud to support Transport Canada and our aviation partners using the SkyRanger, which is the first VTOL sUAS to conform to the requirements established by Transport Canada for UAV system airworthiness and design.”

In more recent news, the Australian company V-TOL Aerospace together with UK-based company RelmaTech, successfully performed day and night BVLOS flights continuously monitored by an operational (UTM) system. V-TOL used a fixed-wing and multi-rotor UAS equipped with RelmaTech’s SIAM (Secure Integrated Airspace Management), a tracking unit that allows not only the pilot, but also Air Traffic Services and other SIAM-equipped aircraft pilots (both manned and unmanned), to detect the drone at all times.

Also, we recently covered Thales and Unifly partnership on the creation of a UTM System which will help in many different respects, including beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

Drones and their systems are clearly becoming safer, easier to implement and deal with in different environments. Various industries and individual operators are looking to pursue BVLOS operations in different ways, but regulation and the ability to work within a UTM system represent the biggest questions and concerns around seeing these types of operation enabled on a large scale.