Drone services and ground robotic vehicle specialist InDro Robotics has received a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAV flights in the US, a first for a Canadian company according to the Toronto-based firm.
InDro says it will initially use the FAA waiver to operate BVLOS drone missions for clients in the US solar energy sector, notably inspecting their often enormous assemblies of photovoltaic panels. During similar work for customers in Canada, the company’s UAVs – equipped with cameras and thermal sensors – scan infrastructure for broken, malfunction, or even merely dirty panes requiring intervention, immediately uploading that data to a cloud platform for analysis.
Those aerial assessments are usually completed in a couple of hours by the end of a single day, compared to the far greater time needed for on-foot human checks.
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Its use of the FAA waiver will involve InDro shipping a drone to facilities to be inspected, then operating those BVLOS flights remotely. In doing so, the company will dispatch an on-ground collaborator to the site who will power the UAV on and serve as visual observer during the flight. The US regulator’s authorization permits the company to conduct those missions in Class G airspace, at least 10 miles from airports and at maximum altitudes of 400 feet above the ground.
InDro already uses that procedure in performing BVLOS drone inspections for solar clients in Canada, and says the FAA waiver will allow it to improve services delivered to US customers from previous visual line of sight operations.
It will also enable the company to potentially expand its business activity to more of the over 2,500 solar energy farms in the US.
“We’re pleased the FAA has seen fit to grant us this BVLOS waiver,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece. “Permitting these kinds of teleoperated missions will save clients both time and money, while ensuring they still receive best-in-class piloting and data acquisition/interpretation. We have deep expertise in solar farm inspections – and look forward to carrying out missions with this waiver.”
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Its new FAA BVLOS waiver is another milestone in InDro’s expanding drone services business, following what was a heady year of activity in 2022. The company says a recent session of number crunching of its work last year revealed its pilots had carried out 336 flights in Canada, the US, South America, and Saudi Arabia, flying 487 kilometers using multirotor drones and capturing 40,802 aerial photos.