Wing granted BVLOS authorisation by FAA


Wing has become the the latest to receive a summary grant for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations by the FAA.

Authorisation has been issued under exemption No. 18339D which is the same grant the FAA provided to UPS Flight Forward, Phoenix Air Unmanned and uAvionix Corporation.

In granting the approval, the agency said the grant of exemption is in the public interest. It stated the reasons presented by Wing for the exemption request were similar in all all material respects to relief previously requested. Whilst, the reasons the FAA stated for granting “Grant of Exemption No. 18339D” also apply to the situation presented in Wing’s petition. 

That said, the FAA has made a number of changes to the conditions and limitations of the exemption to “conform to current policy”. 

Before granting, the FAA put Wing’s request out for public comment. Of the 10 comments received, six were in favour, two voiced partial concerns and two opposed. Supporting comments came from The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Commercial Drone Alliance (CDA), Manna Drone Delivery, Small UAV Coalition, UPS Flight Forward and Walmart. Additionally, DroneUp and Helicopter Association International (HAI) offered partial support but voiced several concerns.

Irish drone delivery startup Manna Aero offered its comments in support of Wing. It said that Wing’s exemption request is fairly limited in scope, asking just for administrative language changes within various types of FAA authorisations. Manna said this would reduce “unnecessary duplication” of requirements from other FAA approvals. It feels that granting the petitioner’s request will provide the FAA with the flexibility to approve a broader range of potential risk mitigations “without requiring the agency to engage in time-consuming rulemaking processes each time a change is requested”.

Opposition came in the form of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA). ALPA has contended for some time that all operations in the national airspace system (NAS) must be conducted to a level of safety that does not reduce the safety levels of other NAS users, including airline operations. Both ALPA and the NAAA have alleged a lack of information has been provided by Wing regarding their “airborne conflict prevention” capability when they are not using visual observers. The NAAA assert that this would, in effect, “seem to grant permission to conduct BVLOS operations without visual observers, without a demonstrable replacement of safety mitigation measures”.

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