BVLOS: An acronym you’re going to love
In a project with Heliscope we are very close to obtaining the first permanent, commercial BVLOS license in the world. This is great news for everyone working with drones or with infrastructure inspections based on UAV flights – and here’s why:
Flying without an operator
Normally, a drone operator needs to see what he or she is doing to prevent the drone from flying into stuff and causing damage to persons or property. But in the military community, drones have been flying more or less autonomously for years with an operator in a control room far from the heat of the action, so it’s technically possible to let drones fly on their own.
For more peaceful applications, such as inspection flights, autonomous drones are not yet standard anywhere in the world. The technology exists, the problem is getting a permit to go flying without an operator in the field.
Beyond Visual Line of Sight
However, the prize is really worth the effort. If a UAV can be sent on inspection flights along a pre-programmed flight path, it will increase its efficiency and range dramatically.
Whereas a human operator on the ground needs to move around in order to cover a stretch of power lines, an autonomous drone can just go buzzing along the power lines for mile after mile and shoot all the images one could ever dream of. This is called BVLOS – Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
Studies have shown that the cost of drone inspections using BVLOS can be reduced by a factor of 10, making an already cost-effective inspection method far more cost-effective still.
And what’s more, BVLOS also means that UAVs can take continuous photos along the full length of a power line instead of just in select spots where it’s believed that something needs to be looked at.
Making inspection flights cheaper and more comprehensive
Ultimately, it will be possible for utility companies to operate a fleet of UAVs – or employ drone inspections to do it for them – that perform constant, all-covering inspections of every part of the infrastructure. The (positive) implications for asset management and reinvestment models are almost mind-blowing.
In Denmark, we are just a few steps from the first commercial, permanent BVLOS license in the world. We have demonstrated that BVLOS flights are safe, reliable and commercially viable, and we are certain this is going to change the game of infrastructure inspection radically. The project has been carried out in collaboration with Danish universities and the Danish Civil Aviation Authority.
For us at Scopito, the test flights and the license demonstrate that our software solution is capable of handling very large amounts of image data and GPS data coming in from the UAVs, and that even autonomous drones can easily be handled with our software.