First FAA-approved beyond-line-of-sight drone flies in the US

University of Alaska’s test flight, according to Drone Life, used a hybrid electric drone to inspect a four-mile section of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Since the test’s objective was to fly the drone for the inspection’s whole duration with no human involvement, the team had to load it with an on-board technology by Iris Automation called the Casia system. It’s a sense-and-avoid technology that can detect other aircraft and make intelligent decisions on what kind of threat they pose to the drone. The Casia system worked with the eight ground-based radars the team installed along the route.

Cathy Cahill, the director of the university’s drone program, told Reuters that BVLOS flights are important for Alaska due to the lack of roads in remote areas. The test is a milestone for the drone industry as a whole, though. As FAA acting Administrator Dan Elwell said, it advances the industry toward the reliable integration of drones into the airspace.

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