Safely integrating UAVs into national, and international airspace, flying beyond line of sight is essential for the continued development of UAV technology for the professional sector. Flying under 500 feet was previously regarded as too low to regulate, however is now becoming a necessity to do so. A recent test flight in the Netherlands, performed with a modified Ascending Technologies Falcon 8, shows that future integration of professional drones into airspace is possible.
Flying beyond line of sight and integrating UAVs into shared airspace, will most likely require craft to be fitted with additional sensors, but will help in closing the operational and technical gaps, in order to conduct more complex UAV flights for multiple sectors.
The Dutch Drone Company (DDC) with the use of the AscTec Falcon 8, and the support from the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), has successfully inspected the production site, and operational flares of Shell Pernis, Rotterdam. Partnering again with the NLR, the DDC installed a transponder onto the AscTec Falcon 8, and conducted test flights within the Netherlands Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Test Center (NRTC), a part of the NLR.
Making Flights Beyond Line of Sight Possible
Surveillance- Broadcast transponders (ADS-B) function by continually broadcast the GPS position of the equipped aircraft, allowing ADS-B aircraft, and air traffic control to see and track the position of all the ADS-B equipped aircraft in the area.
Jan-Floris Boer NLR Project Leader, commented on the test flight, “This drone inspection flight was unique because with a transponder it was now possible to fly in an area under the control of an airport. The sector is now working together with [Air Traffic Control Netherlands – Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland ] LVNL on the next steps. This will clear the way for even more drone applications relevant to society.”
Regulation currently carries heavy restrictions on flying beyond line of sight, and within non-segregated air fields. Any changes to current regulation, aiming to integrate UAVs into shared airspace, will greatly affect the way new technology is used in: inspection, and maintenance for gas, oil and energy, agriculture, mapping and surveying, heritage conservation, ecology, and search and rescue.