SwissDrones gets ‘unprecedented’ FAA authorisation for nation-wide BVLOS operations


SwissDrones and aerial service partner, Phoenix Air Unmanned have gained unprecedented FAA authorisation to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) across the entire US.

The authorisation for SwissDrones’ SDO 50 V2 single-turbine uncrewed helicopter system marks the first-of-its-kind in the US. It establishes a clear regulatory pathway, setting a precedent for other organisations using the system to gain BVLOS approvals for their operations. 

SwissDrones and PAU collaborated over three years to build a concept of safe BVLOS operations (CONOPS). The authorisation enables extended-range inspection and patrol flights over linear infrastructure under the same regulations as traditional-crewed aircraft. Also, the SDO 50 V2 has received a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA. 

Ulrich Amberg, CEO of SwissDrones, said: “We take great pride in our partnership with Phoenix Air Unmanned, which has resulted in securing this first-in-kind BVLOS authorisation in the United States. This FAA authorisation not only validates the strength of our CONOPS strategy but also paves the way for other commercial operators to leverage the capabilities of our SDO 50 V2 unmanned systems, setting a precedent for expanded operations in the industry.”

Phoenix intends to use the aircraft for a range of data-gathering tasks, including LiDAR data collection and thermal imaging. Depending on the specific sensor package and operating area, inspection flights may span distances exceeding 60 miles.

Will Lovett, managing director of Phoenix Air Unmanned, said: “The SwissDrones SDO 50 V2 represents a game-changing advancement for our operations and clients in the Utility and Energy space, providing advanced sensor packages and an endurance capacity far surpassing what was previously available in the commercial market. It offers a safer, more efficient, and cost-effective alternative to traditional infrastructure inspection methods.”

The SDO 50 V2, with its maximum weight of 191lbs, can carry sensors weighing between 30 and 70lbs on missions lasting over three hours. It offers nearly ten times the endurance and three times the lift capacity compared to aircraft weighing under 55lbs that operate under Part 107 waivers.

SwissDrones is also among the first organisations to obtain a European drone operator license, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC). This certificate grants SwissDrones the authority to self-authorise flight operations for its aircraft across EASA countries, encompassing BVLOS operations within the specified certificate limits. 

Additional regulatory approvals from civil aviation authorities worldwide will be announced in the coming months.