American Aerospace's drones granted first FAA waiver for BVLOS commercial operation

May 21, 2024
AATI’s AiRanger drone will perform remote aerial surveillance of Chevron’s pipeline and production facilities.

MCLEAN, Va. - Iridium Communications Inc. in McLean, Va. announced a development in uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). American Aerospace Technologies, Inc., an Iridium partner in Conshohocken, Pa. received a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct UAS surveillance of critical infrastructure in California's San Joaquin Valley for multinational oil and gas company Chevron.

Enabled by Iridium’s global L-Band satellite connectivity, AATI’s AiRanger drone will perform remote aerial surveillance of the energy company’s pipeline and production facilities. Iridium’s network provides BVLOS connectivity, including remote Command and Control (C2) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities. The drones, weighing over 200 pounds, will send information via Iridium satellites to conduct routine inspections.

Blue Sky Network, another Iridium partner, customized and integrated its SkyLink 7100 voice, data, and BVLOS terminal on the drones. The SkyLink 7100 enables continuous tracking and C2 capabilities for aviation and UAV operations.

Related: Iridium signs five-year contract with L3 Harris to provide satellite time and location service for FAA

The AiRanger is the first UAS to comply with industry standards for the DAA system and meet FAA BVLOS operation requirements. This achievement could pave the way for broader use of BVLOS UAS, enhancing situational awareness, reducing inspection costs, and maximizing value. The waiver illustrates that Iridium’s satellite C2 capabilities can meet FAA BVLOS requirements.

“This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application,” said John Peterson, Executive Director of Aviation at Iridium. “When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers collaborate, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what’s possible with reliable satellite communications.”

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