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  • Charl Jooste

Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights Approved by FAA

Image: American Robotics, Inc.

The FAA ended 2020 with some amazing developments and they have not slowed down in 2021. The year has just started and already, they have another great announcement. They approved commercial drone flights for a Massachusetts company with not only no line of sight but without the need for a drone operator.

This is yet another groundbreaking advancement in the commercial drone industry and one that will certainly boost the business and lead to further advancement and development.

Drone operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) have been in demand for some time now but it is only recently that the authorities have allowed this. The advancement is largely due to new safer technology, the drive of drone industry stakeholders, and the efforts of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

The company in question is American Robotics Inc. and they have been working on this project for several years. The Marlborough, Massachusetts based company is confident that their drones can operate with safety and precision without the need for human intervention. This not only makes them more adaptable and flexible but also significantly reduces the cost of drone operations.

What makes this announcement significant is that fully autonomous drone operations have never been approved until now. Reese Mozer, co-founder, and CEO of American Robotics Inc. believes the market for commercial drone services is in the region of $100 billion. This includes services for agriculture, energy, and other industries. Now that the FAA has approved the concept there is massive potential for future progress.

According to American Robotics Inc., their Scout drones use advanced technology to ensure they remain out of the path of other aircraft. They autonomously dock at base stations in order to recharge and transmit the aerial survey data.

Past FAA approval has been based on human operators being near the drone. Commercial Drone Alliance executive director and lawyer for American Robotics Inc. stated that this approval “is critical for the industry to truly take off”.

The only restrictions on the BVLOS autonomous drone operations are that the drones follow a planned route and do not exceed 400 feet (122 meters) in rural areas. The allowed takeoff weight is 20 pounds (9 kilograms (20 pounds).

This important development is a testament to the advancements in drone safety as well as the industry drive and efforts of the FAA. It will no doubt be a massive boost to this essential business.


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