After a series of successful test flights, Danish drone operator Heliscope and inspection software developer Scopito are close to becoming the first to obtain the coveted permanent BVLOS license from the Danish Transport Agency.
A Danish project with BVLOS test flights is nearing its completion – and the results are highly promising. So promising, in fact, that the partners expect to obtain the world’s first permanent BVLOS license in a matter of months.
The term BVLOS stands for Beyond Visual Line of Sight and describes a UAV/drone flight in which the drone flies autonomously over long distances. A human operator will always be on stand-by, following the flight in real-time and being ready to take over, but without being close to the flight path or being able to visually follow the drone. The pre-programmed drone will stay close to the power line, taking thousands of photos as it flies. These photos can be stored, shared and analysed using dedicated imaging software such as the solution developed by Scopito, which uses a combination of human analysts and artificial intelligence to detect parts of the infrastructure in need of repair.
In Denmark and in many other countries, BVLOS flights are possible, but permits must be obtained from flight to flight; this is the first international case of a permanent BVLOS permit being issued.
Huge implications for infrastructure asset management
But BVLOS flights are more than just a new way to fly drones – they are potentially a serious game-changer for the world’s utility companies.
“Drone inspections of power lines are becoming a strong business proposition, as utility companies are looking for ways to improve their asset management and to make re-investment plans more precise. But with BVLOS, the drone business will really begin to take off,” predicts Ken Falk, CEO and founder of Scopito. “The cost of inspection flights will drop by a factor of at least ten, maybe even more, when compared to normal drone inspections. And with true BVLOS, utility companies can carry out full line inspections rather than just point-to-point inspections, the way it’s done now.”
For utility companies charged with the task of managing aging infrastructure, such close and exhaustive photo inspection runs at a low price will dramatically change the way they plan repairs and renovations.
Safety is paramount
As with all aviation operations, safety is paramount. The two universities have carried out safety evaluations of the UAV flights, and the safety involved is expected to be equal to – or even to succeed – the safety levels known from commercial air traffic.
Only when fully satisfied will the Danish Transport Agency issue the permanent permit, but Ken Falk is confident: “The test flights have been hugely successful, and the safety calculations show infinitesimally low risk of incident. All we need now is the permit. We’re almost there, and we’re the first in the world to get there.”
The project is a joint venture between the University of Southern Denmark, the University of Aalborg, the Danish Transport and Construction Agency and the two independent companies Heliscope and Scopito. Following the project closely is the Danish UAS test centre.
For further information, please contact:
Ken Falk, CEO, Scopito
Tel.: +45 71 99 29 03