eBee X Drones Get First Ever Approval to Fly Over People, Moving Vehicles without a Waiver

BY Zacc Dukowitz
16 November 2022

AgEagle has received the first certification ever issued by the FAA for a drone to fly over people and moving vehicles.

The eBee Geo | Credit: AgEagle

The approval was given to the company’s eBee X fixed-wing series, which includes the eBee X, eBee GEO and eBee TAC. According to AgEagle, anyone flying one of its eBee X drones in the U.S. now no longer needs a special waiver to fly “advanced drone operations over people and moving vehicles.”

Here are some of the types of work that eBee X’s new certification will support:

  • Storm damage assessments for insurance adjustments
  • Telecommunications inspections for network coverage mapping
  • Powerline inspections
  • Pipeline inspections
  • Railroad inspections

The certification is yet another win for the eBee X, which has already made it onto the Pentagon’s Blue UAS list of drones approved for use by the federal government.

Having an aircraft approved to operate over people will fundamentally change the way drone operations can be planned and conducted in the U.S.

– Tombo Jones, Director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership

In addition to its U.S. approvals, the eBee has an impressive list of international approvals and certifications, including:

  • Approved for BVLOS ops in Brazil
  • Approved for BVLOS and flying over people in Canada
  • The first drone to earn a C2 Certification and Design Verification from the EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

It’s also worth noting that in the U.S. the eBee makes up over 40% of all the commercial fixed-wing drones that have been registered since 2016, making it the single most popular fixed-wing drone on the market.

How the eBee X’s Got Its Certification

Last year, the FAA published a new rule for commercial drone operations in the U.S. that laid out criteria for drone ops that had previously been prohibited by the Part 107 rules, describing ways pilots could conduct Operations Over People (OOP), Over Moving Vehicles (OMV), and at night.

For OOP and OMV, the FAA described four categories of drones, organizing them based on things like their weight and on whether the FAA had issued the company an airworthiness certificate.

Credit: AgEagle

These categories described specifications for the drones themselves that would make it possible to fly them over people or vehicles, providing a way for pilots to do these kinds of ops that wouldn’t require them to get a waiver.

Among these four categories, eBee X fell under Category 3 of the rule—larger UAVs that “produce greater than 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object.”

To meet Category 3 requirements, the drone must:

  • Be designed, produced, or modified such that it does not exceed the applicable injury severity limit.
  • Not contain any exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin on impact with a human being.
  • Not contain any safety defects identified by the Administrator.

[Here is the full rule on operations over people in the federal register.]

To get its Category 3 certification for the eBee X, AgEagle partnered with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) to do in-depth testing so it could demonstrate that the drone met all the FAA’s safety criteria.

The eBee X was put through its paces in these tests, undergoing extensive, months-long FAA-designated evaluations so that AgEagle could prove it complied with the Category 3 criteria.

Credit: AgEagle

In addition to testing, the eBee X was subjected to a historic reliability review, which included looking back on how it had performed in the past and a review of any notable safety incidents involving the drone.

When the FAA published the rule, it identified a clear-cut pathway to a goal that all of us in drone integration have been working towards for a long time; this approval demonstrates that pathway is viable. Our testing reflects years of expertise that we’ve built in evaluating the risk of drone operations, and we’re proud that it could play a role in making this milestone possible.

– Tombo Jones, Director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership

Why This Certification Matters

AgEagle’s new certification is an important step toward opening up new ways people can use drones for work of all kinds in the U.S.

The rule the FAA established in 2021 was a great start for allowing OOP and OMV flights.

But the rule is only valuable if companies can actually meet its requirements, allowing pilots to fly in these new, less restrictive ways.

Becoming the first and only UAS approved for OOP in the United States . . . will further improve the business applications made possible by our drone platform for a wide range of commercial enterprises which stand to benefit from the adoption of drones in their businesses.

– Barrett Mooney, CEO of AgEagle

More generally, the certification matters because it shows real progress toward normalizing operations previously prohibited by the Part 107 rules.

As more companies earn these types of certifications, we can look forward to seeing the promise of OOP, OMV, and other drone ops open up to pilots, all of which moves us toward a more open commercial landscape for work with drones in the U.S.

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