Grand Forks, N.D.-based SkySkopes has inked permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at night.
The flight services firm completed its first set of nighttime operations on Nov. 10 in cooperation with Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy. The flights were part of a research project exploring the use of drones to assess storm damage.
Xcel Energy arranged for a drone to fly at night over staged storm damage in Mayville, N.D., to see whether thermal cameras could detect problems such as severed power lines and downed utility poles during the day and night.
“Developing this technology allows us to explore ways we can improve reliability and safety to better serve our customers,” comments Michael Lamb, Xcel Energy’s vice president of operating services and enterprise transformation office. “We’re pleased to collaborate with SkySkopes as we work to reduce outage times while also saving time and money.”
The FAA approved SkySkopes’ waiver request earlier this month. The approval allows SkySkopes to operate aircraft after sunset and before sunrise, as long as the aircraft are equipped with anti-collision strobe lights.
“These permissions are a game-changer for the North Dakotan UAS ecosystem,” notes Matt Dunlevy, president and CEO of SkySkopes.
“Night operations give SkySkopes the ability to deliver higher-fidelity data solutions to our customers because of the increased effectiveness of thermal imagery,” adds Mike Johnson, SkySkopes’ director of flight operations.
The FAA has approved 146 waivers for flights under its recently implemented Part 107 rules for the operation of commercial UAS. Of those granted since Aug. 29, 140 waivers have received permission to conduct nighttime operations, according to SkySkopes.