Flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) is widely seen as one of the key requirements to scale the use of drones, but it’s largely been prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration without a waiver of exemption. But this fall, flying BVLOS is coming to the North Dakota Northern Plains UAS Test Site.
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site, which is one of 7 UAS test sites, is currently in what it calls “the initial stages of implementing infrastructure” for making flights BVLOS happen. That entails verification and validation system testing in coordination with the FAA, and ensuring the safety and reliability of the network as it gets built out.
As far as who is actually making that infrastructure? Two technology and aviation companies: L3Harris Technologies and Thales USA. L3Harris Technologies, which is a global aerospace and defense technology company, provides defense and commercial technologies across not just drone technology, but also in land, sea, space and cyber domains. Thales USA provides solutions, services and products to customers in the aeronautics, space, transport, digital identity and security, and defense markets with a focus on digital innovations – connectivity, Big Data, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
And what about operating the flights themselves?
Those will be conducted by Volansi (in particular, the company’s VOLY C10 drone).
The Northern Plains UAS Test Site says the Volansi VOLY C10 was selected because of its ability to allow for integrating different technologies, such as Command and Control (C2) links or onboard Detect and Avoid (DAA). Volansi has been on a tear this month, having announced in September a $50 million Series B investment.
The flights will take place near Watford City and Williston, North Dakota, which the Northern Plains UAS Test Site says it chose for its proximity to “many potential use cases and existing state and local government infrastructure.”
The cities are based near the heart of North Dakota’s oil and gas industry.
Under Federal Aviation Administration Part 107.31, the remote pilot in command, as well as any visual observers or other persons manipulating the flight controls must be able to see the drone throughout the entire flight, which experts say limits use cases like drone delivery (though if you have a Part 107 BVLOS waiver from the FAA, you’ll be able to carry out your drone flight, without adhering to that rule).