FAA Approves Use of Visual Observers for N.D. UAS Test Site

The Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site has been given an additional operational approval to use visual observers from multiple ground locations.

This approval provides a safer and more economical solution than a chase manned aircraft when conducting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, says the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

The Northern Plains UAS Test Site is working with NASA and its UAS traffic management initiative, as well as the FAA’s UAS Center of Excellence, to explore low-altitude, detect-and-avoid solutions. Both of these initiatives require testing in a BVLOS environment.

Thus, using visual observers creates what is referred to as “daisy chaining.”

“As beyond line-of-site operations are not currently authorized at low altitudes, ‘daisy-chaining’ gives us the ability to use multiple visual observers to create an environment that tests various concepts beyond visual site,” says Nicholas Flom, director of safety at the test site. “We applaud the FAA for providing us with this opportunity to assist users in simulating missions in a beyond visual line-of-site environment in an effort to move this industry forward.”

Companies working in fields such as precision agriculture and national infrastructure inspection will see a benefit in testing in this environment. The test site also hopes to attract manufacturers who would like to demonstrate the capabilities of their platforms to the FAA in a simulated BVLOS environment.

The North Dakota test site recently gained approval to conduct tests at night and to use airspace throughout the entire state at altitudes higher than 200 feet.


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