To date, flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) has been tested with visual ground observers or in an “extended line of sight” scenario – one that may require as much staff as flight within visual line of sight. This week in Alaska, however, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) moved forward with a ground-breaking, first BVLOS flight – one that demonstrated the true value of long-range drone operations for inspections of critical infrastructure.
From an article in DRONELIFE by Miriam McNabb.
The mission was an almost four mile linear inspection of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. The University of Alaska team and Alyeska Pipeline Service designed the project, which involved a hybrid electric drone made for endurance flight from Skyfront, on-board sense-and-avoid technology from Iris Automation, and ground-based, high-performance radar sensors from Echodyne.
“The test was to fly the drone along the pipeline with no human involvement at all,” explains Leo McCloskey, VP Marketing at Echodyne. To achieve that, the team used a combination of technologies to ensure absolute airspace safety. In order to ensure that the Skyfront drone posed no risk to other aircraft, it carried the Iris Automation Casia system. The Casia system, says Iris Automation, “is a turnkey solution that detects, tracks and classifies other aircraft and makes intelligent decisions about the threat they may pose to the vehicle, and triggers automated maneuvers to avoid collisions.”
“The mission parameters defined by UAF really push the industry to increase sensor technology’s effectiveness,” said Iris Automation CEO and Co-founder Alexander Harmsen. “Our Casia system performed well and demonstrated that leveraging onboard detect and avoid systems is critical to mission safety and produces the results businesses are seeking.”
The Casia system worked in conjunction with 8 ground-based radars set up along the route: a set of two radars approximately every mile, which assured total coverage of the 4 mile route. Echodyne’s airspace management radar, EchoGuard, “combines cutting edge MESA technology and powerful software to create a true electronically scanning array (ESA) radar sensor,” says a company release. “Echodyne radars detect, track, and classify objects of interest in the airspace and communicate this data to situational awareness systems to ensure safety for BVLOS missions.”
For the complete article on this first BVLOS flight click here.
Sept. 4, 2019 For an update click here.
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