Upcoming Changes to Operating a Drone Beyond the Visual Line of Sight

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Get ready, because big changes are coming that will let drone pilots fly their aircraft way beyond where they can currently see them. The commercial drone industry is really excited about these updates to the regulations.

In 2024, a new law was passed requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – the government agency that controls air traffic and makes aviation rules – to establish clear policies by September 2025 that permit routine drone flights beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Currently, there are strict limitations on how far away drone operators can fly from their location while still being able to see the aircraft with their own eyes. 

Getting approved for BVLOS flights is a huge hassle requiring special case-by-case exemptions from the FAA.

But those line-of-sight restrictions have really hampered a lot of promising applications and business opportunities for commercial drone operations that need greater range. Once BVLOS regulations are in place, it will knock down major barriers holding the industry back.

How the New BVLOS Rules Will Roll Out:

First up, by December 2024, the FAA has to publish their proposed draft regulations for BVLOS operations in what’s called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). This is where they’ll lay out all the specifics they have in mind for enabling visual line of sight flights.

There will then be a window for the public to study the draft rules and submit their comments, feedback and suggestions before anything is finalized. Drone pilots, businesses, manufacturers and any other stakeholders can weigh in on potential changes.

After reviewing all the input from the public comment period, the FAA will revise the proposals as needed and then issue the official new Part 108 regulations for routine BVLOS flights by September 2025 to meet the congressionally-mandated deadline.

What to Expect in the BVLOS Framework:

While the details are still to come in the NPRM, the new Part 108 rules are anticipated to cover crucial areas such as:

  • Safety certification standards for drones and equipment used in BVLOS operations
  • Required technological capabilities like sensors/cameras to detect and avoid obstacles
  • Criteria for properly integrating BVLOS drones into regulated airspace with other aircraft
  • Updated knowledge/testing requirements for pilots to earn a new BVLOS rating

The FAA is expected to largely model the new rules on recommendations from an aviation rulemaking committee that previously studied how to safely enable widespread BVLOS drone operations.

Not being confined by line-of-sight limits will open up a massive range of new valuable applications that just aren’t feasible under the current restrictions, including:

  • Inspecting infrastructure like pipelines, power lines and rail lines across vastly longer distances
  • Delivering packages and cargo by drone over much more expansive routes and service areas
  • Improving capabilites for search/rescue, disaster response and other public safety operations
  • Perimeter surveillance and security monitoring for large plants, properties or facilities
  • Aerial mapping, land surveying and monitoring much larger project sites like farms

For commercial drone service providers, BVLOS flights will significantly extend their geographical range and scope of customers and jobs. 

Industry analysts predict it will unleash a tidal wave of new market growth and opportunities.

As the BVLOS rules get drafted throughout 2024, drone companies, pilots and all stakeholders should stay tuned and get involved by voicing their input once the official public comment period opens up. 

After years of constraints, finally being able to fly drones far beyond the visual line of sight will truly allow the industry to take off.

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Drone Launch Academy has helped over 40,000 drone pilots learn how to fly drones, pass the Part 107 Exam, and learn the skills they need to start making money with drones.

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