The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will partner with three major industries to explore ways to test unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) so they can be used out-of-line-of-sight of the operator. The FAA originally proposed that the operator must be able to retain visual contact of a UAS. Drone advocates such as Amazon and DHL say it’s necessary to allow such aircraft to operate beyond line-of-sight to be used to its full potential.
UAS manufacturer PrecisionHawk will work with the agency to extend visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas. This concept involves UAS flights outside of the pilot’s direct vision. The application could be used for crop monitoring in agricultural operations. CNN will be exploring how a drone might be safely used for gathering news in populated areas, and BNSF Railroad will explore using drones to inspect rail system infrastructure.
“Government has some of the best and brightest minds in aviation, but we can’t operate in a vacuum,” said Anthony Foss, the U.S. transportation secretary.
In February the FAA released proposed rules for UAS, and received almost 4,500 public comments by the end of the comment period April 24. At last month’s CNS conference in Orlando, U.S. manufacturer of small drones, Matternet, announced plans to test drones in Switzerland in partnership with SwissWorld Cargo and Swiss Post, for the delivery of payloads of one kilogram or lighter. Delivering urgent medical supplies to rural areas or delivering important documents are but two of the uses suggested for the company’s drone, called Matternet ONE.
FAA administrator Michael Huerta told Reuters “we anticipate receiving valuable data from each of these trials that could result in FAA-approved operations in the next few years.”