"Beyond visual line of sight" — or BVLOS — has become part of the UAV user's lexicon, and it's fairly self-explanatory; it simply means that the operator cannot physically see the drone he or she is piloting.
According to Transport Canada, the definition of visual line of sight is "unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to be able to maintain operational control of the aircraft, know its location, and be able to scan the airspace in which it is operating to decisively see and avoid other air traffic or objects.” BVLOS describes UAS flight operations conducted at standoff distances beyond the visual contact described above.
Currently, Transport Canada doesn't allow BVLOS flying without a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).
Transport Canada’s Staff Instruction 623-001 establishes the following conditions for BVLOS operations:
- BVLOS flights cannot take place outside of restricted airspace, unless the operator can mitigate risk to an acceptable level i.e. through the use of ground-based radar
- BVLOS flights must not be conducted over populated areas
- BVLOS flights must be conducted in visual meteorological conditions
- BVLOS flights cannot be conducted within controlled airspace
- BVLOS flights can only be conducted within 5 nautical miles of the point of departure
- The take-off and landing/recovery must be conducted within visual line-of-sight
- Direct radio line-of-sight capability must be maintained throughout the operating area
That doesn't mean BVLOS flights are common. In fact, Aeryon Labs Inc., a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) manufacturer, performed the first Transport Canada-approved BVLOS flight just last month.
"This inaugural flight creates the foundation for how sUAS operators can legally and safely fly BVLOS within Canada and across the globe," reads a press release from Aeryon Labs Inc. "Civil and commercial applications, including public safety, power line and pipeline inspection, and large area mapping, will be more feasible and more cost-effective since a larger area can be covered in a single flight without the pilot adjusting location to keep the sUAS within sight."
According to the company, these flight trials are a milestone for aviation, establishing safe operational procedures and protocols for operating UAS under 25kg behond line of sight.
“Transport Canada continues to be a progressive airspace regulator, establishing standards and guidelines, like BVLOS, that enable safe UAS operations within Canada,” commented Dave Kroetsch, President & CEO, Aeryon Labs, in the release.
(Photo credit: Aeryon Labs Inc.)