University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted its first Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) flight without ground observers on 31 July 2019 under the US Department of Transportation’s (DoT) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP). Demonstration inspection flights were carried out along a nearly four-mile linear inspection mission along the Trans-Alaska pipeline operated by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) team, the test deployment consisted of Echodyne radars along the pipeline path to provide airspace situational awareness and Iris Automation’s computer vision collision avoidance technology onboard Skyfront’s long-range hybrid multicopter drone. Operating in coordination with ground-based systems, including Echodyne radar, the Casia system from Iris Automation directs the UAS to avoid airspace collisions.
The UAF team proposes several ways to pioneer safe drone use in Alaska: to deliver medical devices to remote areas; help searches and rescues; survey fish and wildlife; and monitor pipelines, roads and other infrastructure.
University of Alaska Fairbanks is one of 10 UASIPP demonstration sites selected by the US DoT. The program encourages government authorities at all levels to cooperate with drone operators and sensor technology manufacturers to accelerate the safe adoption of drones into the nation’s airspace, currently only permitted under the FAA Part 107 regulations.
(Image: UAF photo by Sean Tevebaugh)
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