Israeli drone startup Airobotics has obtained Australia’s “first and only” Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approval to fly fully automated commercial drones without a pilot.
The landmark decision paves the way for Airobotics to operate automated multi-rotor drones from its Remote Operations Centre (ROC) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) with air crew needed at a client site.
The company said its remote pilots are located within Airobotics Australia’s ROC, at a designated Remote Pilot Station (RPS), which operates more than 1,000km from onsite systems at the customer sites.
The new “man on the loop” level of operations enables human operators to supervise flights, but without requiring “man on the loop” pilots to intervene in flight operations, the company said in a statement.
“This landmark approval is a major achievement for Airobotics and its future growth across Australia,” said Niv Russo, vice president of aviation and compliance at Airobotics.
“Removing aircrews from potentially dangerous environments, like mines, enables customers to extract maximum value and reduce risk from their business operations by leveraging technology and automation. This progression marks the next step for Airobotics as we continue to break new ground in unmanned drone technology to deliver safer and more accurate, data-driven solutions.”
The company said its automated solution provides an alternative to standard piloted services, “which can be prohibitive, imprecise and not always available.”
Cutting edge UAV regulations
Airobotics said it is the only drone company certified to fly BVLOS operations in the US (December 2018 approval), Israel (March 2017 approval), and Australia, “three countries considered to be in the cutting edge of UAV regulations.”
The approvals open up new, innovative and revolutionary ways of performing BVLOS operations.
As Airobotics points out, the system will help with different issues in the drone industry, such as high costs of labour, increased logistics around drone operations, expensive and lengthy training of aircrew as well as enabling customers that are not drone experts to perform highly complex drone missions.
“We’d like to extend our utmost gratitude and appreciation to the CASA RPAS team members who worked collaboratively with Airobotics over many months in achieving this first-of-its-kind approval,” said Joe Urli, the director of flight operations and chief remote pilot for Airobotics.
“This milestone is a credit to our dedication and constant desire to improve the processes that have made Airobotics the region’s leading unmanned aviation company.”
The company’s pilotless drone solution provides an end-to-end, fully automatic solution for collecting aerial data and gaining insights. The industrial-grade platform is available on site and on-demand, giving industrial facilities access to premium aerial data in a faster, safer, and more efficient way, Airobotics said.
The platform consists of three distinct pieces. There’s the drone, called the Optimus, which flies for 30 minutes while carrying a 1kg payload. There’s also an automated base station for the drone to land, take-off from and can swap batteries by themselves.
Finally, Airobotics Software enables users to control and manage missions with one click.
Intel in Israel and Israel Chemicals were important first customers for Airobotics as they allowed the company to test the system on their facilities.
Australian mining company South 32 is already working with it to capture data and insights across the Worsley Alumina operations in a 3D digital environment.
Airobotics is now looking to expand the operations worldwide, starting in Australia and the US.
The company recently announced a $30 million Series D round of funding, bringing its total investment to $101 million.