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Iridium-Connected Drones Receive FAA BVLOS Waiver
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Iridium-Connected Drones Receive FAA BVLOS Waiver
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) May 16, 2024

Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: IRDM), a global provider of voice and data satellite communications, announced a significant development for uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI), an Iridium partner, received a unique waiver from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct UAS surveillance of critical infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley for a multinational oil and gas company. This waiver is expected to encourage wider adoption of UAS operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Supported by Iridium's global L-Band satellite connectivity, AATI's AiRanger drones are enabling remote aerial surveillance for the energy corporation's pipeline and production facilities. Iridium's low-latency network provides reliable and cost-effective BVLOS connectivity, including remote Command and Control (C2) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities. The large drones (over 200 lbs.) will send information via Iridium satellites to perform routine oil and gas pipeline inspections. Iridium partner Blue Sky Network developed and integrated the global, dual-mode SkyLink 7100 terminal on the aircraft. The Iridium Connected Skylink 7100 enables continuous tracking and C2 capabilities for aviation and UAV operations.

The Iridium Connected AiRanger is the first UAS to comply with industry standards for the DAA system and meet FAA requirements for BVLOS operations. This achievement paves the way for companies to deploy BVLOS UAS to enhance situational awareness, reduce inspection costs, and maximize value. The waiver demonstrates that Iridium satellite C2 capabilities can meet large drone BVLOS waiver requirements with the FAA.

"This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application," said John Peterson, Executive Director of Aviation, Iridium. "When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers get together, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what's possible with reliable satellite communications."

Iridium continues to work with the drone industry to establish safe separation using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) avionics. Last year, Iridium published a whitepaper addressing the challenges in enabling safe, scalable, and efficient UAS operations in the NAS. The whitepaper includes a recommended equipment list and highlights capabilities supported by the Iridium network that facilitate safe and scalable UAS operations in the NAS.

Research Report:Iridium's BVLOS whitepaper

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