Phoenix Air Unmanned, LLC (PAU) received a broad area waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration authorizing utility powerline inspection flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the remote pilot in command. The authorization spans powerline infrastructure across the United States and builds upon thousands of miles of BVLOS transmission line inspection flight experience.
“PAU is thrilled to now offer scalable BVLOS UAS inspection services to utilities nationwide. Our past performance and commitment to aviation safety has led to this complex authorization. We have flown over 13,000 miles of inspections for Xcel Energy under FAA BVLOS waivers and can now scale the same services to all utilities across the United States”, says PAU Managing Director, William Lovett.
PAU has been granted operations beyond visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command and visual observers, operations over people, and operations over moving vehicles. The waiver itself relies on a robust safety case to include electronic airspace surveillance, a clear and defined operating area, and performance criteria justifying the safety of the operation.
“Many issued BVLOS waivers require visual observers throughout the route of flight – adding cost and complexity. This authorization lists electronic airspace surveillance as alternative risk mitigation. To build the operation we selected key partners with a track record of reliability and aviation experience”, says William Wheeler, Director of Operations for PAU.
“For electronic airspace surveillance PAU relies on IRIS Terminal, developed by Kongsberg Geospatial. IRIS Terminal provides our UAS operators with real-time BVLOS airspace visibility, by showing ownership tracks and cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft tracks all on the same pane of glass, located inside our mobile monitoring stations.”
“The Freefly Systems Alta X is the aerial platform of choice, with adaptable payload mounting to include Phase One cameras or LiDAR. We have over 10,000 miles of transmission line inspection experience with the Alta X and the system’s reliability goes a long way in proving the safety case to our regulators.” Phoenix Air Unmanned flight crews operate the Freefly Alta X over the centerline of the transmission line, flying from structure to structure and capturing multiple datasets including high-resolution inspection imagery. In June of 2021 a single PAU flight team captured 134.4 miles of transmission line inspection imagery in a single day. These inspections were flown under an identical BVLOS waiver, proving the scalability of BVLOS transmission line inspection flights with UAS.
About Phoenix Air Unmanned, LLC:
Phoenix Air Unmanned is a sister-company to the Part 135 Certificated air carrier, Phoenix Air Group, Inc. Founded in 2014, PAU is the nation’s first International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) registered RPAS operator. The company remains focused on operating above UAS industry standards and providing economically viable scalable inspections services to utility customers.
About Freefly Systems:
Freefly Systems is an American corporation that designs, manufactures, and markets drones, camera systems, and gimbals. Our uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) are flown for a wide range of applications from infrastructure inspection to Hollywood’s latest feature films. Freefly headquarters are in Woodinville, Washington where we test, build, and support all of our products.
About Kongsberg Geospatial:
Based in Ottawa, Canada, Kongsberg Geospatial (https://kongsberggeospatial.com), developer of the TerraLens Geospatial SDK, creates precision real-time software for air traffic control and UxS and situational awareness. The Company’s products are primarily deployed in air-traffic control, Command, and Control, and air defense solutions. Over nearly three decades of providing dependable performance under extreme conditions, Kongsberg Geospatial has become the leading geospatial technology provider for mission-critical applications where lives are on the line. Kongsberg Geospatial is a subsidiary of Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace.