Operating a small UAS beyond visual line of sight – BVLOS is something that makes a lot of sense for applications such as power transmission line inspection and precision agriculture where the consequences of failure are quite low as compared to a busy highway.
To demonstrate the feasibility of this next level of UAS sophistication the NM Group in conjunction with Phoenix Air Unmanned successfully captured 22 miles (35 km) of a 345-kV line in southwest Missouri from July 18-20, 2016. The system included the Riegl VUX-1 lidar. The LiDAR system and platform combination produced data comparable to and in some cases in excess of the resolution from manned LiDAR flights, delivering close to 100 ppm2 at a flying height of 100 ft (30 m) above ground level.
This ensured suitable depiction of the primary transmission circuit together with underbuild and any undercrossing wires. The presence of independent control enables the data to be confirmed at a high data accuracy of 4-inch (102-mm) root-mean-square error (RMSE) overall, with 2-inch (51-mm) RMSE for structures and conductors.
For this project operators were stationed in a daisy chain fashion which allowed the copter to be in sight at all times while still demonstrating the ability of the system to fly beyond line of sight.
The UAV industry should come together on the BVLOS issue and work with the FAA and other aeronautical agencies around the globe to develop the necessary safety standards to satisfy all of the stakeholders.
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