Drone completes longest flight on US soil?
Good times are certainly on a roll for beyond the visual line of sight flight missions in the USA at the moment.
While Percepto was yesterday celebrating its acquisition of an FAA licence unmanned aircraft systems flights without human intervention, today its Valmont industries’ turn to blow its own trumpet.
Agricultural infrastructure company Valmont Industries, in collaboration with telecommunication conglomerate T-Mobile has just completed a 77-mile flight in Texas – so far allegedly the longest BVLOS flight on US soil.
“We are redefining drone inspections by embarking on the first of its kind long-range inspection drone flight. Flying 77 miles, one for each year since Valmont was founded, this drone test is pushing the boundaries of what drone services can do to improve lives around the world,” Valmont cooed in a social media post.
In a statement, T-Mobile US said the flight, in which the drone flew from Childress to Aspermont in Texas, was completed in just under three hours. Besides the endurance and range, the drone also completed vital operations along the way, which comprised the inspection of vital infrastructure like power lines, railroads, bridges and more.
“The drone (was) a Harris Aerial H6E drone equipped with a T-Mobile 5G connected Sony A7RM5 camera,” T-Mobile US said.
“Significantly faster and more fuel efficient, this task was three times faster than conventional methods, while using less than two gallons of fuel.”
Aside from increasing the flight range of industrial UAS operations from less than 20 miles to more than 60 miles, the H6E also used way less fuel; and continually transferred data courtesy of the 5G connectivity T-Mobile claimed (even though the trial was in a rural area).
Attached to the drone was a Sony A7RM5 camera which, combined with the ability to fly closely to utility lines, provided high-resolution details for critical infrastructure inspection.
T-Mobile provided the 5G network the drone needed for connectivity and other telecommunication needs vital for its autonomous flight and data capture mission.
“5G was built to make life easier,” said Ulf Ewaldsson, President of Technology at T-Mobile.
“Whether it’s connecting a person on their smartphone or improving long-range drone infrastructure inspections, there is no doubt that the reach and speed of T-Mobile 5G is making it possible for entire industries to revolutionize the way they work.”
The company added that with 5G, Valmont’s drone inspection service has become a further example of 5G-enabled technologies that can be used to quickly respond to or prevent an emergency. By pre-emptively monitoring infrastructure sites with greater accuracy, Valmont can now help prevent malfunctions and breakdowns before they have a chance to have a widespread impact.
“Range has been a hurdle in the drone inspection space, until now,” said Jake Lahmann, UAS Manager at Valmont Industries Inc. “To be able to get this kind of range in a single drone flight is really going to revolutionize the way the industry approaches infrastructure inspections.”
Valmont is also planning to further consult and cooperate with the federal aviation authority on BVLOS operation policies, as it intensifies plans to rival Percepto and offer Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB) services nationwide come 2024.