Mapping Drone Granted BVLOS Authorization


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One of the factors restricting many drone flights is the visual line of sight requirement. For the first time, Switzerland has granted anytime Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) authorisation to a drone operator.  

The country’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has granted senseFly permission to fly any of its eBee-branded mapping solutions beyond the visual sight of a drone’s operator, using observers, without the need to set-up a flight operation ‘Danger Area’ beforehand.

According to the company’s website, the BVLOS approval has been granted under strict specific conditions. These include the company’s eBee drones being operated at a maximum flight height of 500 feet above ground level (or 1,000 feet over urban areas) and the use of visual observers. These observers must each monitor a section of airspace—with a radius of 2 kilometres—for other aircraft. They must also be able to communicate instantly with the drone’s operator in the case of any potential issues.

Globally, senseFly is not the first eBee operator to be granted approval for such extended use. Numerous senseFly customers are able to operate under similar conditions, such as ATEC-3D in England and France’s leading agricultural operator, AIRINOV. In late 2016, senseFly’s eBee mapping drone was verified as ‘harmless’ by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC), enabling Italian eBee owners to operate their aircraft much more flexibly, including flying over urban areas, without needing specific authorisation for each operation.

“This country-wide, anytime BVLOS authorisation is a first for Switzerland and we are delighted to be working closely with FOCA to pioneer this kind of flexible, extended use,” said Jean-Christophe Zufferey, senseFly’s CEO. “While this permission is valid only for senseFly, it opens the door for our Swiss eBee customers to apply for, and enjoy, similarly flexible flight conditions. This will, in turn, allow them to grow their businesses by taking on larger, more complex projects.”

“At senseFly, we are committed to bringing solutions to market that facilitate the seamless and safe cohabitation of drones and manned aircraft,” Zufferey added. “This is why we launched our Safer Together initiative with Air Navigation Pro.”

Safer Together is a senseFly & Air Navigation initiative to reduce the risk of mid-air collision. This dual-phase initiative will provide general aviation pilots and drone operators with awareness of each other’s airborne activities—giving them the knowledge they need to take any actions necessary to avoid mid-air incidents, according to Safer Together website.

Zufferey added the company will also be collaborating closely with JARUS (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems) “on our BVLOS findings and experiences, in order for that group to help the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA develop the most valuable BVLOS Standard Scenario for future European use.”