OUR LATEST PROPELLING PODCAST: OUT OF SIGHT, NOT OUT OF MIND, WITH SAMUEL FLICK OF MICRODRONES
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In October of 2015, Samuel Flick joined the Microdrones team as the European Sales Manager. In this role he’s worked hard to understand how his customers operate and how he can help them work faster, save money, and improve their products. Samuel sees great opportunity ahead for the commercial drone industry, especially having recently completed a successful BVLOS corridor mapping mission on the Autobahn.
The mission was a key advancement in Beyond Visual Line of Sight, (BVLOS), making it possible to use drone aircraft for extended lengths of time and distances that would not otherwise be possible in advanced corridor mapping. “Microdrones is really at the forefront of this,” Flick said. “Right now in Germany, the law requires a 400 meter line of sight. BVLOS really unlocks the potential of the drones.”
BVLOS is currently not allowed (or it’s highly restricted) in most countries throughout the world. Drones are required to be flown within a certain line of sight of the operator due to safety concerns, operational control and flight duration times. Samuel says, “By law it’s forbidden to fly out of the line of sight. To get approval for BVLOS you need to get a lot of regulatory obligations and you have to be mindful of the air space around you. You need to be able to prove the drone is capable of safe flight, the pilot is trained, and the operation is planned.”
However, with advances in technology, air traffic control and flight tracking capabilities, BVLOS flight has the potential to be a major game changer in the commercial drone industry. Flick explains, “When you are talking about mapping jobs you don’t have to change the pilot’s location. You are able to measure and fly large areas between 100-200 hectares. Or you can fly corridors like the recent project we did in Germany with 12.6 kilometers of flight distance.”
The project Flick is referring to, took place in Halle, Germany, where Microdrones was able to meet the requirements for conducting BVLOS in uncontrolled air space. Microdrones partnered with Strabag Construction to fly the mdMapper1000DG, equipped with special transponders to make it visible to German Air Traffic Control. Above Highway A33, the mdMapper1000DG was tasked with creating a point cloud and orthophoto of a stretch of the Autobahn. The video below demonstrates the team putting the PLAN together to gather the necessary data to create the point cloud.
Key to the success of the mission was the Microdrones mdMapper1000DG, equipped with a calibrated camera, full format sensor, IMU for accurate positioning, as well as GLS antennae. The mdMapper1000DG eliminates the need to install ground control points, reduces overlap and sidelap, and allows the user to perform corridor mapping thanks to the on-board IMU that measures orientation angles.
Every stakeholder worked together to manage the process and get the test approved. Flick said, “For the 12.6 kilometer distance we broke the distance into two flights, the first for a distance of 7 km the second 5.6km. With LTE on board we could start and stop the waypoint and keep track of the flight’s progress and we collected highly accurate data.
In addition, the Microdrones mdMapper1000DG was equipped with an LTE modem and the FLARM Collision Avoidance module to assist with BVLOS flight. You can watch the action in the video below.
BVLOS can open up applications to the entire drone market. Some applications beyond corridor mapping include medical transportation, agricultural measurement and yield, methane gas detection and inspections. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos discussed the possibility of home drone delivery, which would require BVLOS. “When Amazon said that, it was nice to hear,” says Flick. “However, it’s not just the BVLOS that needs to be allowed. When it comes to flying hundreds of drones and delivering packages, you need to take into consideration stations for take-off and landing, tracking, flight control, and emergency response. So Amazon might not be the first to be equipped to take advantage of BVLOS. Mapping jobs, surveying, construction and load management, and inspections are more manageable in the immediate future.”
Before that future can become a reality, Flick notes that regulations and services need to be in place to conduct BVLOS. “Regulations exist to keep rogue pilots from flying drones all over without safety and detail,” he explains. “We need to have the right regulations and be a little more open to drones. On the other hand we also need to ensure a high quality assessment for drone manufacturers and pilots.”
The BVLOS mission in Germany was a resounding success and proved that Microdrones has the tools, technology and capabilities to meet BVLOS standards and regulations. Futhermore, it demonstrates that the Microdrones team has the resourcefulness to work with partners and find the best solutions possible. “We want to give clients added value that they can use the drone for their job,” says Flick. “That they have the sensors in the air with the full package of everything needed to fly the drones, collect the data and create the best results possible.”
Are you interested in learning more about BVLOS and how Microdrones can put their integrated systems to work for you and your business? Schedule an appointment to speak with one of our friendly, helpful experts!