Airobotics Receives First-of-Its-Kind Waiver from the FAA to Fly Automated BVLOS Missions Over People
BY Zacc Dukowitz21 December 2018
Airobotics recently announced that they have received a first-of-its kind waiver from the FAA, giving them permission to perform three different kinds of UAV operations otherwise prohibited by the Part 107 regulations.
Photo credit: Airobotics
The new waiver allows Airobotics to fly BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) automated drone missions over people, using a VO (Visual Observer) who is not required to maintain a direct line of sight with the drone at all times.
Airobotics has permission to operate using this new waiver out of their Remote Operations Center located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
This latest certification opens the gateways to offering American mining companies, seaports, major construction projects, and in the future smart cities, an optimal means of increasing efficiency and safety while decreasing operational costs.
– Ran Krauss, CEO and Co-Founder of Airobotics
Listed in the actual Certificate of Waiver issued to Airobotics by the FAA are the specific sections of the Part 107 rules that have been waived:
- 14 CFR § 107.31, Visual line of sight aircraft operation, is waived to allow operation of the small unmanned aircraft (sUA) beyond the direct visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command (PIC) and any visual observer (VO) who is participating in the operation.
- 14 CFR § 107.33(b) and (c) (2), is waived to the extent necessary to allow operation of the small unmanned aircraft (sUA) when any VO who is participating in the operation may not be able see the unmanned aircraft in the manner specified in §107.31.
- 14 CFR § 107.39, Operation over people, is waived to allow operations over a limited number of non-participating human being.
The new waiver will primarily be used to fly missions within the mining sector, as well as for industrial facilities in the U.S.
Accolades and Achievements for Airobotics
2018 has been a huge year for Airobotics.
In June, the Wall Street Journal named Airobotics one of the Top 25 Tech Companies to Watch in 2018.
The majority of companies included in the list were tech-focused, including several blockchain and cyber security companies. The only other drone company to make the list was Kespry.
According to the Wall Street Journal, companies were selected based on an analysis of data related to the founders’ experience, investor track record, amount of investment raised, growth of workforce, and buzz about the company.
Regarding amount of investment raised, in October Airobotics announced that they had raised $30 million in their Series D funding round, which brought their total amount raised up to $101 million. According to Airobotics, the new funds will be used to further scale their operations in the U.S., as well as Central and South America.
In addition to making the Wall Street Journal’s list, in February of this year Airobotics was named one of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company. A month later they received Frost & Sullivan’s 2018 Global New Product Innovation Award for their autonomous drone platform, which was also a contributing factor in the company being included on the WSJ’s list.
A BVLOS Triumverate
With this new waiver, Airobotics is now the only company to hold a waiver to fly BVLOS missions in the U.S., Australia, and Israel.
Photo credit: Airobotics
In addition to holding a BVLOS waiver in all three of those countries, Airobotics claims to be the only drone company in the world certified to fly without a human operator. This claim is backed up by their approval from Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority to fly fully automated drone missions without a pilot, which was granted in March of this year.
When weighing the value of the unique permissions Airobotics holds—to fly BVLOS in the three countries just listed, to fly fully automated missions in Israel, and to fly over people in the U.S.—it’s important to underscore the unique nature of the waiver Airobotics just received from the FAA, and how difficult that kind of waiver is to obtain.
The process for obtaining a BVLOS waiver, or a waiver to fly over people, is incredibly rigorous, and involves a close investigation into the specs of the UAV proposed for the operation. Specs are especially vital for the waiver application when a company or individual is asking for permission to fly over people, because all safety concerns need to be anticipated and addressed before the FAA will allow a drone to operate above people.
The fact that Airobotics has not only received permission to fly both BVLOS and over people at the same time, but to do so with an automated drone solution that does not have to be directly observed by a VO, speaks volumes about the quality of their technology. Given that the waiver was granted, we can assume that the FAA closely scrutinized Airobotics’ automated solution in the waiver process, and determined that these types of operations could be performed safely using their UAVs.
With all of their unique permissions, not to mention the accolades and funding being heaped on them for their autonomous drone technology, it looks like Airobotics might well be the company to watch when it comes to the future of automated drone missions. It will be interesting to see how this new waiver is actually used in the field—we can only imagine we’ll be hearing more about Airobotics in the near future.
Are you excited to see what Airobotics does with their new waiver? Share your thoughts in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.