Leading U.S. drone platform provider PrecisionHawk has been working for three years to develop its research on flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS.)  Now, they’re ready to pass it on.

As a leading member of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program, PrecisionHawk has been flying under a BVLOS waiver and gathering data to develop “operational and safety practices, as well as recommendations for technologies that enable drone flight beyond visual line of sight,” says a company announcement.  “PrecisionHawk shared the final results of its beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) research, conducted on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Pathfinder Program during an event held in Washington, DC yesterday for federal aviation rule-makers and drone policy thought leaders. ”

The company will now offer consulting and training services for other commercial operators to fly BVLOS.  “The ‘BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program’ is built on three of years of PrecisionHawk’s Pathfinder research and extensive experience conducting advanced operations under the company’s own BVLOS FAA waivers,” says PrecisionHawk.

“As a Pathfinder company, we have developed a strong corporate culture of safety and a commitment to helping government and businesses derive value from advanced drone operations,” said Michael Chasen, PrecisionHawk CEO. “Our research, led by Dr. Allison Ferguson, PrecisionHawk’s Director of Airspace Research, is the foundation of the BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program. Allison has worked closely with the FAA and industry leaders to develop standards that have the potential to revolutionize the drone industry, and it would be remiss not to thank her for her dedication to this project.”

“We look forward to sharing our experience with businesses and operators in a range of industries with the aim of providing more safety data to regulators while fostering the adoption of drone technology at large,” Chasen continued.

PrecisionHawk’s Diana Cooper – a well-known and respected figure in the industry – will lead the BVLOS and Expanded Drone Operations Consulting Program. Diana joined PrecisionHawk in 2015, and currently serves as the President of the Small UAV Coalition and on a number of FAA advisory groups, including the FAA Drone Advisory Subcommittee, the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee on Remote Identification and Tracking of UAS, and the NTIA Multi-Stakeholder Process on UAS Privacy.

“Due to the complexities involved with flying BVLOS, the waiver process is purposefully arduous, which has resulted in a very low achievement rate,” said Diana Cooper. “PrecisionHawk has developed expertise in navigating these complexities to support the adoption of BVLOS practices, and I look forward to working directly with organizations to unlock new possibilities for executing inspections, surveys, precision agriculture, emergency response, and more.”

To date, PrecisionHawk has received both its beyond visual line of sight and night operations waiver, allowing the company to commercially operate drones under either scenario. “The extension in range offered by BVLOS flight allows a significant expansion in the flight radius, up to 12 times what is achievable within line of sight,” says PrecisionHawk. “This improves operational efficiency, allowing pilots to cover more area in fewer flights. For example, in a single flight, a gas pipeline inspection team might be able to inspect 6 km of pipeline instead of 2. Or an agronomist could measure plant traits over 12 acres instead of 1.”

Commercial applications like pipeline inspection, transportation infrastructure, and large scale agriculture rely on BVLOS flight, which has been legal in countries like France for several years.  The FAA has indicated that it will prioritize BVLOS flight in forming U.S. drone regulation.  PrecisionHawk’s new program will officially launch in March: interested parties can contact PrecisionHawk at for more information on how to become involved with the program.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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