SwissDrones granted FAA approval for BVLOS UAV operations

November 6, 2023  - By
Image: SwissDrones

Image: SwissDrones

SwissDrones, a global manufacturer and operator of long-range uncrewed helicopter systems for inspection, surveillance and public safety applications, has announced its SDO 50 V2 multi-mission, single-turbine uncrewed helicopter system has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization.

This authorization allows aerial service provider Phoenix Air Unmanned (PAU), partner of SwissDrones, to operate the SDO 50 V2 beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) across the U.S. This achievement marks the first-of-its-kind authorization within the United States, allowing PAU to broaden its capabilities in inspection, patrol and survey missions over extensive distances.

SwissDrones and PAU collaborated over the course of three years to build a concept of safe BVLOS operations (CONOPS) and conducted numerous flight trials in the U.S. using the SDO 50 V2. All regulatory and safety requirements were met in cooperation with the FAA to enable extended-range inspection and patrol flights over linear infrastructure under the same regulations as traditional-crewed aircraft.

PAU intends to use this aircraft for a variety of data-gathering tasks, including high-resolution imaging, lidar data collection and thermal imaging.

Depending on the specific sensor package and operating area, PUA inspection flights can span distances of more than 60 miles, allowing operators to conduct multiple inspections efficiently within a single flight.

With a maximum weight of 191 pounds, the SDO 50 V2 can carry sensors weighing between 30 and 70 pounds and maintain flights lasting over three hours. These extended flights make it ideal for missions requiring multiple sensors, offering nearly ten times the endurance and three times the lift capacity compared to aircraft weighing under 55 pounds that operate under Part 107 waivers.

The SDO 50 V2 has also received a Special Airworthiness Certificate (SAC-EC) from the FAA. SwissDrones is among the first organizations to obtain a European drone operator license, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC). This certificate grants SwissDrones the authority to self-authorize flight operations for its aircraft across EASA countries, encompassing BVLOS operations within the specified certificate limits. Additional regulatory approvals from civil aviation authorities will be announced in the coming months.

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