The Federal Aviation Administration has approved “Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS)” commercial flight for a large drone for the first time, the drone’s developer American Aerospace Technologies (AATI) has claimed. 

The AiRanger is described as an “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS). It is 3 metres long with a 5-metre wingspan. Its maximum take-off weight of 99kg with a 34kg payload. 

Its service ceiling is 15,000ft or 4,500m and the commercial aircraft is capable of 100kts. 

“This groundbreaking development allows AATI’s AiRanger aircraft to conduct commercial operations at medium altitudes under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) beyond the pilot’s line of sight without airborne or ground observers, marking a first-of-its-kind milestone for the unmanned aviation industry,” the company said. 

“For the first time, an uncrewed aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds that flies above 400 feet has been approved for commercial Beyond Visual Line-ofSight operations in the United States, opening a new era in uncrewed aviation in the National Airspace System,” added David Yoel, founder and CEO of AATI. 

The AiRanger is a patrol aircraft, designed at first for use in the oil, gas and offshore industries. 

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“The uncrewed AiRanger eliminates the risk to flight crews on traditional patrol aircraft while producing 35 times less CO2,” Yoel explained. 

The company’s proprietary sensors will be used in combination with the aircraft’s real-time communications systems to deliver actional data on threats and leaks to oil & gas infrastructure in near real time.

The first use will be for Chevron Pipe Line and Power in the San Joaquin Valley in California. 

But AATI said that port and harbour use and disaster response were future target sectors for the product.