At the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, NV on September 6, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its approval of the uAvionix petition for exemption to, among others, 14 CFR 91.113(b) and 14 CFR 61.3(a)(1) to operate an Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in North Dakota through the use of the Vantis Command and Control (C2) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) network. Specifically, the exemption grants the use of the Vantis network to satisfy right-of-way regulations and the requirement for the operator to hold a pilot’s license under Part 61.
Wow, that’s a mouthful! Here’s what just happened, and why it’s important. This summer, the FAA asked for public comment on four (4) requests for exemptions by different UAS operators who represent a broad set of use cases with the intent that these exemptions could be rulemaking – i.e., precedent setting, in order to help move the industry forward in the absence of formal BVLOS rules.
The uAvionix exemption is different than the use cases in the other submissions in that it is a request for infrastructure approval. While uAvionix is the pointy end of the spear with our name on the exemption, the network infrastructure, which provides C2 and DAA capability, was put together by the Vantis team consisting of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Thales, uAvionix, and others. uAvionix has had the privilege of serving as the UAS manufacturer and operator, and by contributing several key C2 and DAA technologies to the project.
From the Vantis website, its purpose is to develop and implement a commercially operational UAS BVLOS flight system throughout North Dakota and other states that can enable the UAS industry to grow. Aligned with that purpose, our collective goal with this exemption was to create the blueprint for others to follow…and we did it!
Why is this exemption milestone important? Isn’t it just another in a long string of waivers? Nope, they are different. A waiver is essentially a one-off with every waiver theoretically receiving the same amount of rigor and safety analysis (as they should). Approval under an exemption provides for repeatability – an exemption (which is technically rulemaking) can be referenced for future approvals in a much faster manner. More importantly it doesn’t just apply to the original applicant; it works for the whole industry! With this exemption approval, the way is clear(er) for BVLOS operations, especially in North Dakota, where the infrastructure can be leveraged for repeatable operations. The same, or similar infrastructure can be used in other geographies. Yes, there is still a process, but the steps are proven, repeatable, and result in demonstrably safe operations.
uAvionix would like to thank all those involved with Vantis – it is a huge team and system of systems. Our SkyLine Command and Control Communications Service Provider (C2CSP) platform and ADS-B network are major contributors, but do not stand alone. Many months have been spent building, testing, installing, flight testing, reinstalling, updating, flight testing, documenting, flight testing, analyzing and flight testing (again) the system. We also would like to thank the FAA for their forward-lean on achieving this milestone and by recognizing that third-party providers can provide C2 and DAA services to independent operators as a way to scale the industry safely and effectively.
Official information from the FAA can be found in the Federal Register at the following address: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/05/25/2023-11025/petition-for-exemption-summary-of-petition-received-uavionix-corporation#:~:text=Description%20of%20Relief%20Sought%3A%20uAvionix,Part%2091.113(b)%20waiver%20provisions
Source: uAvionix Press Release