Drone News Roundup: See a Draft of the FAA’s New BVLOS Rule, Take an FPV Dive Down the Tallest Building in the World, and More!
BY Zacc Dukowitz1 June 2023
This week we’re covering the FAA’s new draft BVLOS rule, which is open for public comment until June 14.
We’re also covering a fun, high-energy FPV dive down the tallest building in the world, the discovery of 7,000 year old cave paintings in Spain with a Mavic 2 Pro, Montana’s new law criminalizing the use of drones to interfere with wildfire operations, and DroneUp’s layoffs as the company tightens its belt to focus only on drone delivery.
Now on to the links!
The FAA’s BVLOS Rule Is Now Open for Comment
It’s finally here—to use the FAA’s own words, “the FAA is considering the expansion of BVLOS operations.” This is huge news for the drone industry. Since the Part 107 rules came out in 2016—and even before that—flying a drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight has been prohibited. For years, the only way around the prohibition was to obtain a special waiver, which could take months or years and require deep pockets.
Unlocking BVLOS operations promises to open up new types of commercial use cases for drones, including long range inspection and monitoring with drone-in-a-box solutions, forestry surveys, search and rescue missions, and any other scenario you can imagine where flying for a long distance could be useful. BVLOS is also important for newer use cases like Drone as First Responder programs for law enforcement, in which a drone is deployed to the scene of a 911 call ahead of the responding officer. The FAA knows how important BVLOS is, and that’s why it’s been testing BVLOS for years, first with the Pathfinder Program, then with the UAS IPP, and most recently with the still-active BEYOND program—named for the Beyond in Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
When any federal agency proposes a new rule it typically must open the rule up for public comment. We’ve linked the draft BVLOS rule below, which is open for comment until June 14. We encourage you to read through it and comment on it with your thoughts and opinions. This is a unique opportunity to have a voice in the future of drone operations here in the U.S.
FPV Dive Down the Tallest Building in the World
Feeling sleepy? You won’t after watching this epic FPV dive down the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the entire world. The Burj Khalifa is located in Dubai, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and it’s the place where Tom Cruise’s character has an epic, nail-biting fight scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The video was shared on DRL’s official channel—one thing you realize while watching is how impressive it is that a drone’s transmission range can even allow for a flight this long.
Mavic 2 Pro Helps Discover 7,000 Year Old Cave Paintings in Spain
Credit: Francisco Javier Molina Hernández | Lvcentvm
Researchers in Spain recently used a Mavic 2 Pro to find cave paintings believed to be 7,000 years old. The paintings were found in caves located in inaccessible terrain in the the mountains of Alicante, a Spanish province situated along the Mediterranean Sea. The researchers investigated a total of 18 caves by drone but found cave paintings in only two of them. The region could be an untapped treasure trove of ancient artifacts left behind by Neolithic people, since it’s reportedly filled with rock formations that could house other hard-to-reach areas where ancient art might have been preserved for millennia.
Montana Criminalizes Interfering with Wildfire Operations by Drone
A new law in Montana creates stiff penalties for drone pilots who interfere with firefighters working to suppress wildfires. Under the law, drone pilots found guilty could face significant fines and up to six months in jail. The issue of rogue drones getting in the way of aerial firefighting operations isn’t new. For years, different agencies and organizations have been doing their best to educate the public about the danger drones pose to active firefighting operations, forcing them to ground crewed aircraft being used to fight fires. The Forest Service has worked to educate people under the tagline “If You Fly We Can’t” and the work does seem to be paying off—but there are still rogue drone issues around wildfire operations. If these issues persist, other states may follow Montana’s example, and pass their own laws upping the penalties for these bad actors.
DroneUp Cuts Jobs and Other Service Areas to Focus on Drone Delivery
DroneUp just went through a second wave of layoffs. The first wave came at the start of this year, and the second one is happening right now as the company tightens its focus to drone deliveries only. Previously, DroneUp offered a range of drone services, including services for industrial inspections, insurance, and commercial real estate. Now the company will focus only on drone delivery, a service it offers through its highly publicized partnership with Walmart, which is also a backer. In addition to Walmart, DroneUp offers drone delivery for any small- or medium-sized business that wants to adopt it.
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