Is Canada leading the way for commercial BVLOS use?

Last month, in our article on pandemic-driven drone innovations, we mentioned that Transport Canada had authorized a coalition of companies to deliver medical supplies to First Nation communities.

Since two of these delivery projects were recently confirmed to have started, now is a good time to think about these use cases, as well as other beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) developments in Canada. 

Can I get a recap of the First Nations delivery projects?

Sure.

Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), with the help of its partners Air Canada and the Pontiac Group, secured several contracts to provide drone solutions for the delivery of medical supplies, such as personal protection equipment (PPE), hygiene kits, test kits, and test swabs to the Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) and Georgina Island First Nation (GIFN), among other First Nation communities.

Under terms of the contract with the BFN, GlobalMedic is deploying DDC’s drone logistics system to enable a defined two-way delivery flight route to and from the BFN mainland and the BFN Christian Island. DDC’s drone system consists of DDC’s Sparrow drone, DroneSpotTM takeoff and landing zones, and FLYTE software system. DDC’s agreement with the GIFN seems to be similar.

How long have the projects been going on?

Although BVLOS approval was issued by Canadian authorities, on June 4, it’s taken some time to get things up and running.

As of Oct. 21, according to DDC CEO Mike Zahra, the BFN operations had been going on for several weeks, and the GIFN deliveries had only recently begun. 

Is this a PR stunt, or does it have long-term potential?

According to DDC’s press statement, Indigenous Services Canada, the sponsor of the GIFN contract, is using the project as a proof of concept. Indnigenous Services Canaada would like to continue to use drone delivery as a way to limit person-to-person contact during the pandemic, while maintaining the provision of COVID-related medical supplies. 

 

Recent Article: BVLOS Waiver – Here’s What You Need to Know

 

Beyond that, there seems to be movement towards normalizing BVLOS operations in Canadian airspace, which would create a host of opportunities that extend beyond the pandemic. 

For instance, in October, Transport Canada authorized MVT Geo-Solutions, a geo-environmental contractor, to conduct BVLOS operations in uncontrolled airspace in Alma, Quebec.

Under the terms of the Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) issued, MVG Geo-Solutions will conduct power line inspections using the detect-and-avoid (DAA) technology supplied by Iris Automation, a safety avionics technology company.

It’s possible that the flight missions that come from this SFOC could open the door to more complex missions in the future such as infrastructure inspections, mapping, delivery solutions, agriculture data collection, and emergency response.

So how quickly will BVLOS take off in Canada?

Not as quickly as drone operators would like.

The amount of time it will take for BVLOS to become normalized in Canada depends how long it takes for stakeholders to reach a consensus on what is best for the country. And, as is the case with most regulatory debates, this could take awhile.

For instance, Transport Canada proposed allowing drones of up to 650 kilograms to be operated BVLOS in areas with a population density of less than 25 people per square kilometer.

Meanwhile, both the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and the Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada oppose the proposal, claiming it relies too much on the self-regulation of the drone industry and that population density is an irrelevant measure of the potential for airspace conflicts. 

Disagreements aside, this proposal, along with recent BVLOS use cases, is a testament to Transport Canada’s capacity, resources and appetite to embrace advanced UAS solutions. Transport Canada seems to have taken a relatively progressive stance on UAS technology, and BVLOS operations in particular, so it will be interesting to see how things unfold in 2021.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

BVLOS Waiver: Here’s What You Need to Know

How to Use Your Drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight

Many technological advances within the drone industry are limited in real-world applications, due solely to unfavorable regulations.

For example, in the United States, commercial drone pilots must always maintain a visual line of sight with any drone they are operating. While technology allows for flight well beyond this limit, such operation would be illegal without changing regulations.

A classic example of the negative impact of this regulation can be found in oil pipeline inspections. Pipelines extend for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles across vast landscapes.

Drones can cover these distances much more efficiently than humans can. However, under current regulations, operators are required to move every two-to-three miles in order to keep the drone within sight. Thus, the benefit of using the drone is not maximized.

Thankfully, if you’re willing to do the work, you can get a waiver from the FAA, or other airspace authorization body, to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

While getting that waiver is possible, you’re more likely to be approved with expert help. Here’s what to know about the BVLOS waiver.

What is a BVLOS Waiver?

Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding a BVLOS waiver.

As an example, we will use the United States. Once a commercial drone pilot has a Part 107 license from the FAA, that pilot can begin flying … within the license’s limits.

 

Related: The Benefits of Part 107 Test Preparation Courses

 

Every remote pilot in command must operate the drone in a manner that allows them to see the drone and its orientation at all times. With a Part 107.31 Visual Line of Sight Aircraft Operation waiver, though, you can fly without having a visual fix on the drone.

For example, let’s assume that you’re flying your drone around a large, cylindrical storage tank at an oil refinery inspecting for signs of corrosion. If you only have a Part 107 license, you will need to walk around the tank as your drone inspects it, always keeping an eye on its location.

With a Part 107.31, you can let the drone fly behind the tank — out of your line of sight — and complete the task more quickly.

How to Get the BVLOS Waiver

The FAA has issued very few Part 107.31 waivers.

In fact, as of October 2020, only 61 have been approved. By comparison, the FAA has issued well over 4,000 waivers for flying at night.

Your hopes of getting a waiver will depend on the strength of your BVLOS waiver application. Given the low number of approved applications to date, you’ll want to consult an expert.

 

Related: UAS Night Operations – Are You Still in the Dark?

 

While there’s no template for a successful BVLOS waiver published by the FAA, successful applications have had a few common elements which you should include to increase your chances of approval.

Let’s break those elements down a bit.

 

Standard Operating Procedures

 

Standard operating procedures highlight the professionalism and experience inherent within your organization.

These should be well organized, and cover everything from onboarding and training to all aspects of drone operations in which you or your pilots participate. To increase your chances of success, make sure that your procedures include the type of work you are looking to accomplish with a BVLOS waiver.

 

C2 Equipment

 

Next, you’ll want to include a detailed explanation of your command & control (C2) equipment.

C2 is an essential part of the application. The FAA will want to know what transmitters you are using to control the drone, in great detail.

You’ll also need to identify the maximum range of your transmitter ,and how you plan to maintain control of the drone at all times. To do that, make sure to include information about the equipment’s FCC ID number, both on the ground control station and on the drone.

 

Flight Safety

 

Flight safety is perhaps the most critical section.

After all, you are requesting a waiver based on your assurance that operations will remain safe at all times. It’s best practice to have a well-developed mitigation plan for every reasonable situation which could arise.

That plan should include a synopsis on how you will detect and avoid collisions, or other dangers. This will be a significant focus of the approval process.

Ready to Apply?

Getting you BVLOS waiver is possible, but you’ve got some work ahead of you.

You’ll need to carefully construct a thorough application, which takes time, resources, and extensive knowledge of your use-case. Want to improve your chances? We’re here to help!

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team specializes in creating the right plan for your specific situation. Whether you need to fly at night, over people, or beyond your line of sight, we’ve helped companies around the world obtain specialized waivers in order to achieve their specific goals. We’re ready to help you get your drone safely into the sky.

And, we’ll train your team of pilots to ensure that you’re always within airspace & safety guidelines.

Would you rather just hire a team to go out and do the work for you? We do that, too!

Just complete the form below to get started with your risk-free consultation today!

 

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!