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What You Need to Know About BVLOS and Docked Drones

Flying drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) opens up a realm of possibilities for both commercial and consumer drone operations. However, operating drones in this manner comes with strict regulatory requirements and approvals. In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) governs these operations, ensuring safety and compliance. This blog post delves into the essentials of BVLOS approvals and the innovative use of docked drones, helping you navigate this advanced drone operation landscape.

Understanding BVLOS Operations

BVLOS operations refer to flying a drone beyond the pilot’s direct line of sight. This capability is crucial for tasks such as large-scale surveying, agriculture monitoring, infrastructure inspection, and search and rescue missions. The primary benefit of BVLOS is the expanded operational range, enabling drones to cover vast areas without the need for multiple pilots or frequent relocations.

Regulatory Requirements for BVLOS

In Australia, operating a drone BVLOS requires specific approvals from CASA. The process ensures that such operations do not compromise airspace safety. Here’s what you need to know about obtaining BVLOS approvals:

  1. Hold Necessary Certifications: You must hold a remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) and a remote pilot licence (RePL). You must also pass the Instrument Rating or BVLOS exam, or operate under the direct supervision of someone who has passed one of these exams.
  2. Submit Application Form: You need to submit an Application for RPA flight authorisation (area approval/permission) form 101-09. This includes a specific operations risk assessment (SORA) or a BVLOS standard scenario, supporting documents based on the SORA or standard scenario, and payment of the estimated fee. Additional fees apply if an RPAS Inspector needs to travel to complete the assessment.
  3. Operational Check: If it’s your first BVLOS application, you may need to complete an operational check.
  4. Familiarise with JARUS Guidelines: Be familiar with the JARUS guidelines on SORA V2.0 and SORA Annex A V1.0.
  5. Standard Scenarios: For applications that meet the operational characteristics of one of the standard scenarios, you can apply using the corresponding standard scenario applicant response:
    • AU-STS 1: BVLOS operations near a vertical object(s) with a controlled ground environment.
    • AU-STS 2: BVLOS operations near a vertical object(s) with a sparsely populated ground environment.
    • AU-STS 4: BVLOS operations in a remote area within 3 NM of a registered or certified non-controlled aerodrome.
    • AU-STS 6: BVLOS operations in remote Australian airspace (below 400 ft AGL).
    • AU-STS 7: BVLOS operations in remote Australian airspace (400 ft AGL to 5000 ft AMSL).

It’s important to note that BVLOS flight authorisations cannot be renewed. You must apply at least 90 days before the intended commencement date.

Docked Drones: Enhancing BVLOS Operations

Docked drones represent a significant innovation in BVLOS operations. These systems involve drones housed in docking stations. They can autonomously launch, recharge, and perform missions without human intervention. Docked drones offer several advantages:

  1. Extended Operational Range: With docking stations strategically placed across the operational area, drones can cover vast distances, returning to the dock for recharging as needed.
  2. Increased Efficiency: Docked drones can be programmed for routine missions, such as infrastructure inspections or agricultural monitoring, reducing the need for manual piloting and intervention.
  3. Enhanced Safety: Automated docking and recharging minimise the risks associated with manual handling and ensure that drones are always ready for the next mission.
  4. Scalability: The use of multiple docking stations allows for scalable BVLOS operations, ideal for large-scale projects and ongoing monitoring tasks.

CASA Regulations for Docked Drones

When integrating docked drones into BVLOS operations, it is essential to comply with CASA’s regulations:

  1. Operational Approval: Similar to standard BVLOS operations, docked drone systems require CASA approval. This includes demonstrating the reliability and safety of the docking technology.
  2. Maintenance and Monitoring: Ensure that docking stations and drones are regularly maintained and monitored. This prevents technical failures and ensures continuous operation.
  3. Data Management: Implement robust data management protocols to handle the data collected during BVLOS missions. Ensure compliance with privacy and security regulations.

Conclusion

Flying drones beyond visual line of sight presents incredible opportunities for advanced drone applications. However, navigating the regulatory landscape is crucial to ensure safe and compliant operations. By understanding CASA’s BVLOS approval process and leveraging the advantages of docked drones, you can unlock the full potential of your drone operations.

At UASys, we are committed to helping you achieve seamless and compliant BVLOS operations. Contact us for more information on BVLOS approvals, docked drones, and how we can support your advanced drone missions.

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