A Presidential Memorandum established the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) on October 25, 2017. The nine IPP lead participants accomplished many achievements under the IPP, but there were still challenges to be met, which are detailed in the IPP Final Report. Once the program concluded on October 25, 2020, as mandated by statute, the FAA established a new program called BEYOND to address remaining challenges and continue the partnerships and progress made under IPP.
The BEYOND program launched October 26, 2020, as a four-year initiative. It focuses on working toward operating under established rules rather than waivers, collecting data to develop performance-based standards, collecting and addressing community feedback, understanding the potential and realized societal, economic and community benefits of drone use and streamlining the approval processes for drone integration.
• Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
• Kansas Department of Transportation
• Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Tennessee
• Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), Virginia
• North Carolina Department of Transportation
• North Dakota Department of Transportation
• The City of Reno, Nevada
• University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
- The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma performed one beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight with a fixed-wing drone to test the new uAvionx C2 links in November, 2021.
- The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma performed flights with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Forestry Service on March 3 and March 28, 2022, to aid in watching the fire lines of the two controlled burns to watch for backfires. The flights took place in Atoka County on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Daisy Ranch and in Pittsburg County near the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Hunting Lodge on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Daisy Ranch in the Ti Valley area. They used high-resolution thermal cameras to monitor fires obscured by smoke. The drone successfully identified at least three backfires missed by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Forestry service, which allowed them to extinguish the backfires without incident.
- In February 2023, CNO obtained their first Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) waiver without Visual Observers (VOs) (107W-2022-02527), employing a layered mitigation approach using ground-based radar and ADSB-in on a combined data display.
- PBS interviewed CNO in January 2023 for their “Wings Over the Rockies” series. This feature expected to be aired later in 2023.
Kansas Department of Transportation
- In July, 2022, Kansas' DOT partner Evergy Energy received a part 107 waiver (#107W-2022-01031) to allow BVLOS flights with the following conditions only: less than 300 feet AGL, Class G airspace within the state boundaries of Kansas, within the easement of the Evergy transmission line and in sparsely populated areas.
Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority
- In March, 2022, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) and partner FedEx received a waiver that approved flying BVLOS with visual observers (VOs) at a facility off-airport. The waiver allowed for testing BVLOS flights for all of their concepts of operations (ConOps). The goal was to conduct similar future operations on-airport.
- In September, 2022, FedEx sought and received an expansion of its visual line of sight (VLOS) on-airport operations to fly BVLOS with VOs with airspace authorizations for the entire airport. FAA issued an updated airspace authorization on October 11, 2022, to work in concert with the new waiver. On October 26, 2022, the Memphis airport flew their first BVLOS-with-VOs flights on airport property.
- In October 2022, MSCAA partner FedEx received their an Airspace Authorization, allowing them to effectively fly in Areas 4-8, effectively across the entire Memphis airport.
- In October 2022, MSCAA partner FedEx completed their first BVLOS with Visual Observers (VOs) flight on-airport at Memphis Shelby County Airport.
Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), Virginia
- In December, 2021, Virginia Tech received approval for the first FAA-accepted Means of Compliance (MOC) to the Operations Over People Rule. This allowed them to continue using their developed test methods to demonstrate compliance for flying drones over people.
- In November 2020, Virginia Tech led a survey of Christiansburg, Va., residents to study public perception of drone delivery a year after the launch of Wing’s service. The team found remarkably high support for the program: 87 percent of residents reported that they liked the idea of drone delivery and 89 percent reported that they would be likely to use the service. These results are significantly more positive than surveys have found in the general population, suggesting that experiencing drone delivery may improve public perception and help dispel concerns.
- Dominion Energy received a waiver in April 2022 permitting BVLOS inspections of more than 40 power generation facilities across seven states, allowing them to conduct the frequent inspections of these facilities require more efficiently and safely. The waiver leveraged the sophisticated obstacle-avoidance capabilities of a drone manufactured by Skydio, which allowed Dominion to safely fly the drone close to structures.
- In October 2022, the first drones passed Virginia Tech's means of compliance for the FAA's 2021 rule on operations over people. The aircraft, three models in AgEagle's eBee X series, met the threshold for Category 3, becoming the first drones in the U.S. to be declared compliant. Virginia Tech's tests, developed by the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership in collaboration with researchers in the university's College of Engineering, remain the only performance-based means of compliance for this landmark rule.
North Carolina Department of Transportation
- Zipline, BEYOND team member to North Carolina DOT and Partnership for Safety Plan (PSP) partner, received its part 135 certification in June, 2022. FAA authorized Zipline to complete the longest-range on-demand commercial drone deliveries in the U.S., with operations covering the largest area and greatest distance of any commercial drone delivery system in the country. This was the first part 135 certification issued under BEYOND, and the first fixed-wing drone to receive part 135 certification in the U.S. Read Zipline’s press release.
- Matternet’s M2 drone achieved type certification in September, 2022. This was the first non-military unmanned aircraft to achieve Type Certification in the U.S. Type Certification will allow Matternet to scale drone delivery operations in the U.S. and gives the company a strong competitive advantage in the drone delivery market. Read Matternet’s press release.
- In January 2023, Flytrex’s longtime partner Causey Aviation Unmanned was granted standard part 135 Air Carrier Certification, to operate and complete long-range on-demand commercial drone deliveries in the U.S. Causey Aviation Unmanned is the fifth UAS company to obtain Part 135 certification since August of 2020.
North Dakota Department of Transportation
- In November and December 2021, North Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) and industry partners conducted two live demonstrations for key FAA stakeholders to display the surveillance and communications systems of North Dakota's Vantis network to support UAS operations. The team demonstrated the capability of the Mission Network Operations Center (MNOC) to provide air traffic situational awareness to the UAS remote operator via ground-based sense and avoid (GBSAA) radar and automatic depend surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) antenna.
- In June, 2022, North Dakota Department of Transportation held a ribbon-cutting event for the grand opening of the new Vantis Mission and Network Operations Center (MNOC) at Grand Forks, ND. Vantis is the first-of-its-kind statewide network that supports UAS operations in North Dakota beyond visual line of sight. The ribbon-cutting event for the MNOC included representatives from the FAA, legislature, congressional delegation, North Dakota Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation, the UAS industry, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Thales, the Vantis system integrator.
The City of Reno
- In December 2021, Drone America received a Special Airworthiness Certificate – Experimental Category (SAC-EC) for two of their drones in December 2021 in order to build time on the aircraft in effort to achieve eligibility for Market Survey research. Market Survey R&D was granted in July 2022 for operations in limited COA areas for the purpose of proving effective use of the aircraft and sensors, and to develop workflows which will eventually be used for public operations. This was a major milestone for the operator as it allows them to conduct and learn from tailored research, train their crew, survey the market and advance their planned operations.
- Under the BEYOND program, Iris Automation received two BVLOS waivers without the requirement for human visual observers. On March 2, 2022, Iris Automation flew 107 miles in one day in honor of part 107, using its Casia X 360° onboard detect-and-avoid system as the sole mitigation for identifying and avoiding traffic. The waiver enables small drones to fly BVLOS within authorized airspace in rural, unpopulated areas south of Reno. Just one month later Iris received a second waiver this time using its Casia G ground-based collision avoidance system. Casia G creates a stationary perimeter of monitored airspace allowing drones to safely perform missions within that area.
- A third BVLOS approval using two Casia G nodes was granted to Iris Automation in October 2022, creating a protected 'corridor' of airspace to simulate the river the Reno Fire Department hopes to perform search and rescue operations over. Iris Automation has used the experience through BEYOND to support other public safety use cases, gaining approval for Casia G as an alternate means of compliance for the Pearland Police Department's drone as first responder true BVLOS COA, granted in March 2023.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
- A Letter of Agreement (LOA) was signed between the FAA, Fairbanks International Airport, and the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) for drone operations departing from the general aviation runway. From UAF: “An unmanned aircraft owned and operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks flew from the general aviation area of Fairbanks International Airport in May, 2022, a historic feat in the effort to safely incorporate such aircraft into controlled airspace. The flight was the first civilian large drone operation from an international airport in Alaska.” To learn more, read the rest of the UAF article.
- Alaska received a 44083C waiver on February 6, 2023, for civil operations within a test area. This waiver supports aircraft manufacturers and operators in proving the safety of their drones so they can be certified for flight in the national airspace system.