Ken L

Flight BVLOS

Recommended Posts

I've been assigned the task of writing a beyond line of sight waiver app for my state agency. I've learned enough about what the DC FAA review team expects that I think I can include some areas that would require the UAV to fly behind a ridge line. Although I'm not going to expect too much and will limit how much of this drama I plan for.  We understand that most UAVs require a direct line of sight from the controller. Has anyone in the community verified that if, flying an "auto" mission, such as Map Pilot or Litchi,  the bird will continue to follow the programmed mission, even if it loses the signal from the controller?  Tip for those in the community writing waiver apps: We know that the approved waiver certs are posted online. We can receive the "proprietary" apps for these  approved waivers by filing a freedom of information act request, https://www.faa.gov/foia/foia_request/  addressed to FAA ATO Emerging Tech Team (AJV-115)  Once we have the apps, we can address the same topics in our apps. The BVLOS apps should include maps of each area one desires to fly BVLOS, with a lat & long coordinate of the center of the area.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I use Litchi all the time and am quite pleased with it.  Although I have never experienced this, the following is from the user guide.  

Place multiple waypoints on a map however far you want and the aircraft will fly from waypoint to waypoint and complete the mission even if the signal is lost. 

So I would expect that it would complete the mission.  Here in SE Georgia we don't have mountains, hills, or ridges.  Lots of trees though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed, Thank you for that comment. We intend to run some control tests with both our Firefly 6 VTOL & Phantom 4 with all of apps: Map Pilot, Litchi, and Drone Deploy. We've determined that drone deploy can create long strip missions, like along river corridors, as Map Pilot won't. I mean missions to take pics automatically, to create mosaics. Not just video. Too much work to create such Litchi missions. I'm creating the waiver app maps now; mostly huge, flat, sparsely-populated valleys in Nevada. "Tremors" areas. However, we'll need to be able to BVLOS over some topography. It's interesting to note how some of the approved BVLOS waivers [listed as 107.31 apps on the FAA website] describe their flight areas. We're going to request the app for the just-approved Avitas co, in Tx, to fly BVLOS over oil fields. Course, with the additional sensor payload, their UAV exceeds 55lbs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you're putting your app together, be as specific as possible when it comes to not just the equipment and all its fail-safes, but where you'll be flying as well. The more specific and contained the flight path / mission parameters, the easier approval will be. They're not at the point yet where they are approving all BVLOS operations in Class G airspace like they do with the Daylight Operations waiver. Hopefully, we'll get there soon and will have stronger performance-based standards and direction from the FAA to help streamline the application and approval processes.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I intend to post a paper on things I learned filing a BVLOS app on here, since the community has been really supportive, answering my questions. I've been studying this for a year. A lot of trial & error, lectures, and talking to people. A lot of run around by the FAA. The FAA saying is: "They're not happy until pilots are unhappy".  Started from a point of not even knowing how to access the CAPS online form to apply for a CoA or waiver. Now, I've obtained a Coa for my agency and am close to finishing the BVLOS-specific CoA needed for the DC team to evaluate BVLOS. This may be first part 91 BVLOS waiver that gests approved, since the 23 BVLOS approved are all part 107. We're not going to commit to installing a transponder on our BVLOS UAVs, but I want to install powerful lights, possibly strobes, for our daytime flights. Would you someone recommend to me a good lighting kit for P4?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That'd be great — I really appreciate you giving back and bringing your experience to the community in this open forum. Here's a lighting kit a lot of our students have been using: https://lumecube.com/collections/drone-products/products/lume-cube-phantom-4-kit

I've got their setup for the Mavic, and it works really well. They are BRIGHT BRIGHT BRIGHT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Allan. I'm addressing in detail. Topics like a risk assessment, with all of the scenarios our pilots can think of and mitigations. The thing, I think, that will make our app unique are all of the maps included as a merged pdf. I've reviewed every one of the part 107.31 certificates, specifically examining how they describe their BVLOS areas.  I'm mapping every single area, within Nevada, that we want to fly BVLOS. Some 3 dozen areas. A separate page for each area, which a polygon overlaid on a topo map background with lat and long coordinates. Of course, we're limiting our areas to mostly large, flat, valleys, with some hilly areas. All areas are quite remote. No areas in controlled airspaces and no flights near even small towns.  An example area is the remote salt lake Clayton Valley, which has one of the greatest concentrations of lithium in north America. Our Firefly UAV has a 6-mile control range, well beyond our ability to see it from the launch point.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does this warning on the section chart mean that the MoA does not include the G airspace below 2000'?

"MOA EXCLUDES AIRSPACE BELOW 2000' AGL"

I'd like to get the community's opinion. Should I include BVLOS-candidate areas within Military Operations Areas, MoAs, but under any stated MoA floor? 

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd have to see the Sectional Chart, but yes it sounds like under 2000 ft. AGL, it would be Class E up to 1,200 ft. AGL, then Class E. You could include as part of your application, but maybe parse out that request to make it clear to the FAA that you understand how MOAs work and if your risk mitigation needs to change.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The FAA responded to my inquiry: should we attempt BVLOS in MoAs by simply sending me a doc that lists all of the military restricted airspaces; in other words, as expected, they didn't answer my question. After more review of the MoA airspaces within eastern Nv, I've come to the conclusion that the MoAs extend from the ground surface up. Would the community, inc Allan, please look at the attached screen capture and confirm my conclusion?   Another issue I need to bring up: for BVLOS areas behind ridges and hills I'd like to propose using a signal repeater, such as the Redbird,    mounted on either a tripod or on a second Phantom, that we'd hover 400' above the launch point during our BVLOS flights with another P4. Please comment on the effectiveness of this arrangement. We also have a birdseyeviewaero firefly 6 pro vtol. Does anyone know of a signal repeater that would work with the firefly 6 VTOL uav / Ardu mission planner?  

 

 

  

Capture.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The floor of Fallon South 4 MOA is 200 ft. AGL...meaning that as long as you're under 200 ft. AGL, you wouldn't be operating in the MOA.

image.thumb.png.0b489849336335e9d36199cd981dda58.png

And yes, those two statements represent additional information — that the MOA excludes airspace below 2,000 ft. AGL (i.e., the MOA doesn't start until 2000 ft. AGL instead of 200 ft. AGL)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Allan, Where do I find that MoA table you referred to? That list could help me save other areas I felt obliged to drop from our list. The attached candidate area map falls within the Fallon South 4 MoA area. You'll note that I've placed it 5 miles from the airfield to the north, which does not have a E airspace, south of Austin, Nv. Considering a max flight alt of just 200', should I include this area?   The US Restricted airspace list FAA sent me is too big for me to attach to this post. I encourage anyone following this discussion to make suggestions how I might improve these maps. I intend to submit approx. 3 dozen similar maps, in both PDF & KMZ, in my app to the FAA

Austin  BVLOS.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great! I just used the skyvector link to evaluate the 8 areas within Nevada MoAs. We'll submit for the one area that has an MoA floor of 14,000 AGL and consider the 3 that have a floors of 200'. I don't feel comfortable about flying BVLOS at 200'. The remaining 4 have floors of 100'; not worth trying to fly those BVLOS.  Thank you!  We have several BVLOS-candidate areas within hilly areas. Using the Redbird signal repeater, we think those are feasible to fly BVLOS, while maintaining control over the bird at all times. The redbird repeater only works with Phantom 3 standard birds. Apparently, the P4 control freq is too hard to "crack". Does anyone know of a signal repeater that will work to push out the control signal for a Phantom 4 Pro?  I guess we could always purchase a Phantom 3 standard bird and mount the Redbird repeater under our P4. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ken,

This sounds like a pretty cool project and I wish you all the best in getting approvals. I fly the FireFLY6 PRO also, so thought I'd chime in with a few suggestions. I use the FireFly6 planner for my mission planning, and one of the failsafes that you can modify is for the bird's response when telemetry connections are lost. If you disable this failsafe, then the bird continues the planned mission (see "Failsafes" in the manual). I always have this failsafe enabled since I'm not flying BVLOS and I figure something has gone against the plan if I lose telemetry! (I'm in western Colorado, so I'm very familiar with how terrain can mess up a beautiful plan, but I don't have to concern myself with MOAs or many other restricted areas outside of active fire fighting areas).

I've modified my bird's aesthetics by painting its entire ventral surface bright cherry red - I can reliably keep her in sight out to 1km and beyond against a blue sky and even against a cloudy sky (most of the time). However, if I expect to be flying out to that distance, I usually station a visual observer in the 500-900m range since I can find it difficult to relocate the FireFly beyond 600m after checking the monitor for status updates. A pair of quality voice activated 2way radios ensures communication between PIC and VO (practice using this equipment ahead of time and confirm you have contact with your VO before you takeoff!).

Mount your antenna as high as you can. I have mine on a short length of pvc pipe clamped to my table and with a 1/4" bolt glued to cap on the end of the pipe). You might want to get a patch cable so you can mount yours even higher (Adam & Erich at BirdsEyeView are usually very free with their advice - and when they nix an idea of mine, I heed their advice every time!). Also, when I am flying in rough terrain, I try to scout the area ahead of time and locate an area of high ground to set up my ground control station. This greatly extends your visual line of sight, and your telemetry reach, but can lead to some very uncomfortable mission plans. In one case I was mapping a riparian zone in a canyon and had permission to takeoff/land from a private landowner on a ridge overlooking the canyon/river. My mission altitude was just 10m above my takeoff even though it was 80+ m above the canyon floor! So, I'd take off to 35m, fly to the mapping area at 40m, then drop down to 10m (above launch) for the mission, then climb again before returning to launch. Not your usual mission plan...

All the best ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FYI for the BVLOS-interested folks. There are presently 23 approved BVLOS [part 107.31] waivers. That's out of approx. 2,000 submitted 107.31 applications. People would have better odds playing blackjack...  Here I am writing a bvlos app for the gov.  The latest approved waiver, for the oil co in Texas, is not, yet, posted on the FAA website. Does anyone in the community know any details about that waiver, which is to fly a UAV, that exceeds 55 lbs, fly over oil fields.

Richard, thank you posting that informative note. Good tip about painting it bright red and mounting the antenna up higher. We'd not thought of either of those tips. The challenge for obtaining a BVLOS waiver is that the FAA expects the pilot to be able to take control, even if the UAV is flying on automatic behind a ridge. Failsafes are not enough to satisfy FAA.  Hence, my interest in mounting this repeater https://www.dxengineering.com/search/product-line/davis-instruments-wireless-repeaters/wireless-frequency/902-928-mhz?autoview=SKU&sortby=Default&sortorder=Default underneath a phantom and hovering it  400' above a firefly launch point to push the signal downrange behind an intervening ridge. The BEV folks confirmed that they've never heard of someone trying this.  

I'd love to find out about your favorite camera settings for Firefly. We have a sony A6000 and the settings provided by BEV are not good enough for us. Could you, please, post back with the camera you have mounted, your favorite bright sunny day ISO setting, and which Fn focus mode you use for mapping?   Have you figured out how to avoid porting in and downloading the log files after every flight in the case you're flying multiple mapping flights per session?  [the files are not sequentially numbered] 

We've discussed doing a mission where the flight alt is lower than our launch alt; impressed that you did one.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ken, Krylon Fusion for Plastic in Red Pepper/Safety Red is the preferred color! (I also added a bit of red on top to help see my bird during turns and when it is climbing away from me)

You might be able to test your repeater concept by setting up a situation in which direct line of sight between your ground control station and the bird is blocked, but you've got the repeater up in the air to relay telemetry. If communications fail with the barrier in place, you could easily remove the barrier to regain control without putting your FF6 at risk.

My focus is on vegetation mapping, so my camera of choice is the RedEdge multi-spectral sensor. RGB cameras are just for fun, so I haven't spent much on them. I may have some engineering contracts next year so I will be having to learn more about them this winter.

Are you referring to the tlogs? Their names are the date and time, right? So that's how I keep track of them. I record the approx takeoff time of each flight as part of my pre-flight checklist, so it's not too difficult to track down the correct log if I need one. However, since all the RedEdge images are geotagged (unlike the A6000) I don't need the log files unless something goes wrong. :)

Cheers...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting Richard. Thanks for the more detailed info for painting; those are the colors we'll use; saves our hassle to experiment. This is the first I heard about the firefly log files having a date & time code; I couldn't discern a pattern with a collection of log files. I better examine them again. Great idea to set up an artificial barrier, like the hay bale stacks at our test area, to test what happens with and without a repeater in the air. We'll do it over some soft landing spot. You've been really helpful and I know our hydrology section will have more questions for me about NVDI/multispectral mapping[I didn't know that camera geo tagged]. I'd appreciate if greatly if you'd email my personal add: kenforestry@charter.net

Have you ever seen the firefly increase or decrease it's speed when landing in copter mode? Is it one constant speed to touch down?  Like landing hard enough to break the landing gear? Have you ever seen a landing where the on board gps may have acted on an incorrect alt and landed hard?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



  • Welcome to UCCF.

    The UAV Coach Community Forum is actively moderated by the UAV Coach team and offered to help serve those in the UAV industry. Use this space to meet and greet, to ask and answer questions, to share what you're working on, etc. Have fun, play nice, and fly safe! :)

  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      3,609
    • Total Posts
      17,843