Today on Day Two of Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) addressed some of the most pressing questions from the drone industry regarding flights beyond visual line of sight of the operator, commonly known as BVLOS.

While many recognize that current drone standards are both outdated and constrained, there are a variety of perspectives when it comes to the creation of new industry standards that will define BVLOS operations. The FAA is exploring various proposals that will enable operations without visual observers, signifying a burst of activity around the creation and implementation of supporting standards and precedent-based approval frameworks.

At today’s “FAA Insights” session, a panel of experts who have been working to define performance-based regulatory requirements that will normalize BVLOS operations addressed the following questions while also outlining what stakeholders need to know about how to best approach their own BVLOS operations in the short and long term:

  • Has the FAA’s approach to supporting scalable drone applications shifted? 
  • What impact will these standards/frameworks have on the market?
  • When can we expect to see movement? 

The panel was composed of the following experts:

  • Christopher Doherty, member of the Waiver Team in the FAA’s Special Programs Section, Flight Standards General Aviation and Commercial Division (AFS-800)
  • Derek Huffy, FAA’s manager of the Special Programs Section, Flight Standards General Aviation and Commercial Division (AFS-800) 
  • Jeffrey Vincent, FAA’s Executive Director for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office in Aviation Safety (AVS).
  • Sean Cassidy, Amazon Prime Air’s Director of Safety, Flight Operations and Regulatory Affairs.
  • Lisa Ellman, Hogan Lovells’ Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group chair and co-founder of the Commercial Drone Alliance.
  • Dallas Brooks, Wing (an Alphabet company) Aviation Regulatory Lead.
  • Niv Russo, Airobotics’ VP Aviation Regulation.

The panel explained that BVLOS flights are possible today through a series of waivers and exceptions processes and procedures that allow the more tenacious companies to test operations beyond the sight of the operator. When pressed about specific dates for the final ruling, the FAA confirmed that August 2024 is the date when the agency is aiming at publishing the BVLOS notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). That publication will open the doors for public comments and the eventual issuing of the final ruling.