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FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program partners complete unique BVLOS drone operation under FAA Part 107


TOPEKA, Kan. Nov. 8, 2019 -- The Kansas Department of Transportation’s (KDOT) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) has successfully completed the first beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations without a requirement for visual observers or ground-based radar.


The flights, conducted last week, mark the first time under Part 107 the FAA has authorized an operation to fly BVLOS using only onboard detect-and-avoid systems. The FAA granted approval for the flight based a safety case developed in partnership with Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, Iris Automation and KDOT using a combination of strategic and tactical mitigation.


During the test flights, the K-State Polytechnic and Iris Automation flight team used a fixed-wing drone to conduct power lines in a nine-mile path in collaboration with the state’s largest energy provider, Evergy, Inc.


The aircraft was equipped with the Casia detect-and-avoid system from Iris Automation, which provides commercial drones with automated collision avoidance maneuvers.


Historically, all FAA-issued Part 107 BVLOS waivers have required visual observers or ground-based radar. These mitigations limit the possibility of true BVLOS flights, as they are typically prohibitively expensive and limit operations to pre-defined corridor areas with radar coverage. This approval is the first of its kind for long line linear infrastructure and is the first step to enable routine commercial infrastructure inspection across the state.


The milestone operation is the collaborative effort of the 31-member Kansas UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) team efforts to advance drone technologies, and includes K-State Polytechnic, Evergy, Iris Automation and KDOT.


“The UAS industry views this achievement as one of the most significant milestones towards economic development, and we are honored to participate,” said Bob Brock KDOT Director of Aviation.


“This marks the first true BVLOS flight of this type in the nation and is a tremendous milestone for the drone industry,” said Iris Automation CEO Alexander Harmsen. “This is one of the most notable accomplishments to come from the IPP program to date. We’re thrilled to set the precedent and bring our industry’s utilization of drones from dream to reality.”


“We are excited to be a part of this team of UAS pioneers,” said Kurt J. Carraway, UAS Executive Director of the Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Polytechnic. “The hard work of this team creates a gateway for utility companies such as Evergy to create efficiencies in transmission line inspections using unmanned aircraft. We look forward to leveraging this opportunity to document safe operations of this nature, which will lead to creating state-wide access to this technology.”


KDOT Contact:

Bob Brock 785.296.2553


Iris Media Contact:

Brooke Brumfield, 530.414.6259

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