FAA allows Valmont utility inspection drones to fly BVLOS across US

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With drones making powerline inspections safer, more efficient, and cost-effective, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a new Part 107 Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) waiver that would allow Valmont Industries to fly its drones across the United States at a moment’s notice.

Valmont’s utility arm, Valmont Utilities, is leading manufacturer of custom-engineered transmission and distribution (T&D) poles. Since 2018, the company has been exploring the use of drone technology as an alternative to the manual inspection process that is as demanding and tedious as it is expensive and risky. Today, a bulk of inspection work at Valmont is done using highly-capable drones such as the DJI Matrice 300 RTK.

The new nationwide BVLOS waiver gives Valmont the ability to fly its diverse drone fleet for commercial inspections of utility lines without waiting for site-specific geographic approval from the FAA.

Read: Southern California Edison to spend $50M in pole drone inspection services

As Angi Chamberlain, vice president UAS technology services for Valmont, explains:

This nationwide waiver goes hand in hand with the primary goal of Valmont providing our customers more efficient and timely service through technology. Using drone technology allows us to reduce costs and provide an improved alternative to manned aviation.

While Valmont is already able to collect high-resolution images and infrastructure performance data safely and quickly with drones, the new waiver also opens the door for more advanced operations as the company moves toward a completely autonomous solution.

“To our knowledge, we are one of the first five entities to receive this waiver arrangement,” says Aaron Schapper, Valmont group president Infrastructure. “We see this as a clear endorsement from the FAA, acknowledging that Valmont has the right people, training, technology and a proven history for continuous advancement of operational innovation.”

Read: FAA grants nationwide waiver to Percepto for automated, BVLOS drone missions

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