After receiving permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Skyward drone pilots have been conducting beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) infrastructure inspection missions from the comfort of their own homes.
The staff from Skyward, a Verizon company, were granted a waiver that permits them to inspect critical communications infrastructure near the Big Hollow wildfire in Washington using Percepto Sparrow drones.
It allows operations 24 hours a day, with less than three miles of visibility, and no pilot or observer on site.
Although the FAA can grant BVLOS waivers to businesses that prove they can fly safely, an onsite pilot or visual observer has still been generally required.
Verizon said that, with multiple natural disasters occurring throughout the United States, the ability to safely inspect sites that support critical communications for first responders has never been more important or necessary.
“At a moment when we are facing dangerous consequences of climate change and coping with a global pandemic, maintaining the Verizon network has never been more important,” said Rima Qureshi, chief strategy officer, Verizon. “Innovations in airborne technology have enhanced our ability to inspect our sites without putting engineers in harm’s way, and provide our first responders with reliable communications.
“We appreciate the FAA’s swift action in granting the waiver, which allows us to deploy a network-connected drone and provide critical services, safely and effectively.”