AATI Claims Groundbreaking FAA Approval for Heavy-Duty Drone Operations

Estimated read time 3 min read

American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI) has reportedly made history with a significant FAA approval. Their AiRanger drone, weighing over 55 pounds and flying above 400 feet, received the first-ever exemption for commercial beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

A New Era for Heavy-Duty Drones

AATI’s fixed-wing AiRanger drone has received a pioneering FAA exemption for commercial BVLOS flights, a milestone for drones of this size. The approval allows the AiRanger to operate without human observers, either on the ground or in the air, under visual flight rules. This is a rare achievement in the Drone Industry, which is subject to stringent regulations.

The AiRanger’s Capabilities

The AiRanger drone is designed for extensive operations:

  • Weight: Maximum takeoff weight of 220 pounds.
  • Flight Duration: Up to 12 hours.
  • Range: Approximately 750 miles.
  • Altitude: Can fly up to 12,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), with authorization to operate at 8,000 feet MSL over a 4,350 square mile area.

David Yoel, founder and CEO of AATI, highlighted the drone’s efficiency, stating, “The uncrewed AiRanger eliminates the risk to flight crews on traditional patrol aircraft while producing 35 times less CO2. It is also capable of patrolling at 30 times the rate of BVLOS [small UAS] operating under 400 [feet].”

Partnering with Industry Giants

The AiRanger will be used for pipeline surveillance and inspections by Chevron Pipe Line Company (CPL), a subsidiary of Chevron, which has collaborated with AATI since 2019. The drone’s capabilities are expected to enhance critical infrastructure patrol, threat detection, and reporting within the oil and gas sector.

Compliance and Innovations

AATI’s AiRanger uses advanced technology for its operations:

  • Detect and Avoid (DAA): Developed with Iridium, providing compliance with industry standards and FAA requirements.
  • Command and Control (C2): Satellite connectivity ensures robust control and communication capabilities.

According to CPL, the drone’s DAA system has undergone successful FAA-observed testing, proving it can replace human observers, leading to the waiver’s approval.

Broader Applications

While initially focused on oil and gas infrastructure, the AiRanger is versatile. It can be equipped with various sensors for remote sensing, surveillance, and environmental monitoring, making it adaptable for multiple industries.

The FAA’s approval of AATI’s AiRanger drone marks a significant advancement in the commercial drone sector, particularly for large, long-range UAVs. This exemption could pave the way for broader adoption of BVLOS operations, enhancing efficiency and safety across various industries.

DroneXL’s Take

AATI’s milestone approval is a testament to the rapid evolution of Drone Technology and its growing importance in industrial applications. The AiRanger’s capabilities showcase the potential for drones to take on more complex and risky tasks, reducing human involvement and environmental impact. This development highlights the future of drones in enhancing operational efficiency and safety, marking a significant step forward in the industry.

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