In a huge milestone for the US commercial drone industry, the AgEagle Aerial Systems eBee drone series has secured FAA certification for flying over people or moving vehicles without any additional waivers.
The eBee X series of fixed-wing drones include the eBee X, eBee GEO, and eBee TAC.
As of today, these are the first and only drones in the US to comply with Category 3 of the Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft System Over People (OOP) as established by the FAA in March 2021.
Read: We are not a Chinese military company, drone giant DJI insists
This makes the lightweight eBee aircraft extremely apt for complex, large-scale operations such as assessment of storm damage, telecom network coverage mapping, and power line and pipeline inspections.
Incidentally, the FAA already slates the eBee as the most popular commercial fixed-wing drone in the US. Over 40% of all commercial fixed-wing drone registrations in the country since 2016 have been for the eBee, which was first released in 2013.
Read: Parrot is selling senseFly and eBee drones to AgEagle for $23M
AgEagle’s partner in the path to crucial FAA certification was Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP). The FAA-designated evaluation site tested the eBee drones extensively to provide proof of compliance with Category 3 of the rules.
According to Virginia Tech MAAP director, Tombo Jones, having an aircraft approved to operate over people will fundamentally change the way drone operations can be planned and conducted in the US. Jones said:
When the FAA published the rule, it identified a clear-cut pathway to a goal that all of us in drone integration have been working towards for a long time; this approval demonstrates that pathway is viable. Our testing reflects years of expertise that we’ve built in evaluating the risk of drone operations, and we’re proud that it could play a role in making this milestone possible.
Read: At a glance: DJI Mavic 3 Classic vs. Air 2S vs. Mavic 2 Pro
It’s worth highlighting that the eBee is currently approved for use by the US Department of Defense’s Blue sUAS 2.0 program, for BVLOS operations in Brazil, and for OOP and BVLOS operations in Canada. It is also the first drone to receive the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s C2 certification.
Barrett Mooney, chair and CEO of AgEagle, said:
Becoming the first and only UAS approved for OOP in the United States is expected to have a material impact on AgEagle’s growth and standing as a recognized leader in the industry. We believe it will further improve the business applications made possible by our drone platform for a wide range of commercial enterprises which stand to benefit from the adoption of drones in their businesses.