Inside Logistics

FAA approves unattended drone flights

American Robotics has received approval to operate drones without operators on site


January 19, 2021
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Each Scout drone lives within a weatherproof base station.

American Robotics has received approval to operate drones without operators on site.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) no longer requires the company to station observers along the drones’ routes. With this approval, American Robotics’ Scout System is now the first drone allowed to continuously operate without this human requirement.

Each Scout drone lives within a weatherproof base station where it charges, processes and analyzes data from its flights, and transmits back to the company. Once installed in the field, all facets of Scout’s operation are automated, allowing it to gather and analyze ultra-high-resolution data multiple times per day for multiple years without human intervention.

The company’s Scout System uses acoustic Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) technology that allows its drones to maintain a safe distance from other aircraft at all times. By developing a layered, redundant safety system  that includes proprietary technical and operational risk mitigations, American Robotics has proven that its drone-based aerial intelligence platform operates safely in the National Airspace System (NAS), even when it conducts flights Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) of the operator.

“With these approvals, American Robotics is ushering in a new era of widespread automated drone operations,” said Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics.

“Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition. We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA’s comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector.”

Industrial and agricultural uses

Over a rigorous four-year testing program, American Robotics demonstrated its Scout Systems for industrial and agricultural applications. During 2020, Scout Systems flew as many as 10 automated missions per day, capturing a variety of advanced data. The real-time analytics derived from this data empowers farmers, agronomists, industrial operators, security personnel, and maintenance crews to accurately track the health and status of their operations, at a resolution and frequency not previously possible.

“Our interest in American Robotics’ technology started with the desire to have a drone imagery solution that was reliable, scalable, and executed with minimal human resources,” said Lance Ruppert, director of agronomy marketing and technology at Growmark, Inc., a U.S. grower cooperative.

“This technology, along with the FAA approvals to operate it without humans on the ground, is key to making drones a widespread reality in our industry. This is a game changer.”

Lisa Ellman, partner and chair of the Global UAS Practice at Hogan Lovells, and executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, added: “Enabling expanded operations beyond visual line of sight is critical for the [drone] industry to truly take off. Automated BVLOS operations are particularly important to opening the commercial sectors to the drone economy, including the agriculture and industrial verticals. Key to these operations is the use and FAA acceptance of new and innovative safety technologies, such as detect and avoid (DAA) sensors and software-enabled automation.”