Delair-Tech, based in both France and California, announced it has used 3G cell phone connectivity to allow its DT18 drone to fly beyond line of sight to inspect power lines in France.
In early June, the company flew the aircraft for more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) for the company RTE, inspecting power lines between the towns of Samur and Poitiers, using only 3G connections to navigate.
“That’s a major step forward for beyond line of sight flight,” says Benjamin Benharrosh, the company’s cofounder.
French airspace regulators were present for the flight, and Benharrosh said the company would like to present the results to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as well.
The company usually relies on 3G as a backup connection source, and this was the first time it was the primary source. The aircraft was “jumping from one operator to another on the strength of the signal” as the flight went along, he said, using the link for both command and control and real-time video.
Delair-Tech also wants to use 4G or LTE connectivity for future flights, which would allow the aircraft to send more data. Puget Energy tests
The company also announced in June that it has performed a series of tests for Puget Sound Energy, using lidar and photogrammetry sensors to demonstrate the use of unmanned aircraft for infrastructure inspections.
“The mission successfully proves Delair America’s readiness to deploy its custom solutions within the U.S. now that the Part 107 regulations are in place,” Benharrosh says.
Puget Sound Energy was given a point cloud and a digitized model of the transmission lines after the demonstration, which used the company’s DT18 and DT26 aircraft flying for three weeks, including one week of training, and operating in a remote area.
The effort was a “proof of concept,” Benharroush says. Puget Sound Energy is interesting in making further use of unmanned aircraft, but is currently hamstrung by beyond visual line of sight rules.
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