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UAV report shows beyond line-of-sight benefits

This article was published on 6 March 2015

Enabling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to safely operate beyond the line-of-sight of a human operator could provide farming, forestry and the energy sector with economic gains.

Enabling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to safely operate beyond the line-of-sight of a human operator could provide farming, forestry and the energy sector with economic gains.

Enabling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to safely operate beyond the line-of-sight of a human operator could provide farming, forestry and the energy sector with economic gains of up to $190m a year, a report commissioned by Callaghan Innovation has found.

As part of its work helping New Zealand’s emerging UAV sector to innovate and grow, Callaghan Innovation, the government’s business innovation agency, commissioned a report assessing the economic benefits that could result from adopting technology and standards that would allow safe beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) UAV operations.

Under current Civil Aviation Rules a UAV pilot must maintain visual contact with the UAV at all times to ensure it remains clear of other aircraft. This means that UAV operations over long distances, on hill country farms, or over forests are impractical. The CAA have previously approved BLOS operations where operators have demonstrated a level of safety equivalent to line-of-sight operations, however standard requirements have not yet been developed.

The report estimates BLOS UAV operations would provide annual increases in revenue and cost savings amounting to a value of $152-$190m by improving the frequency and efficiency of pasture measurement, early disease detection in forestry and reducing outage times and maintenance needs for electricity networks.

Callaghan Innovation Aviation Sector Manager Chris Thomson said the report demonstrated the clear benefits that would result from BLOS operations, on top of the already considerable benefits from increasing utilisation of UAV technology.

“We look forward to working with regulators and the wider industry to maximise New Zealand’s economic gains from the further development and uptake of innovative UAV technology, including those enabling safe BLOS operations.”

Callaghan Innovation has been working closely with the CAA, Airways and the NZ UAV industry to develop safe, flexible rules that encourage UAV industry growth while ensuring the highest levels of aviation safety. It has also assisted the UAV sector by establishing an industry association (UAVNZ) to encourage collaboration, setting up restricted airspace areas for UAV product development and testing, organising a national UAV symposium and tradeshow and continuing to connect research and manufacturing firms with markets and end-users.

PDF iconuav-benefits-study.pdf(PDF, 2.2MB)