The Belgian survey business Vansteelandt has just recently effectively inspected a high-voltage racé of the Belgian grid operator Elia in Belgium by methods of a drone. What is unique is that a range of no less than 100 km was bridged. The examination was performed with the SDO 50 V2 helicopter drone from the Swiss producer SwissDrones. EuroUSC and SkeyDrone looked after the application of the BVLOS flight permission.

Prelude to U-space

The flight was performed by Vansteelandt, expert in 3D surveying and mapping. The danger analysis needed for the flight authorization for the long-range BVLOS operation was supplied by EuroUSC, in cooperation with SkeyDrone. Throughout the flight, the surrounding airspace was kept track of for other air traffic by ways of sensors installed by technology partner Senhive. Through the SkeyDrone UTM system, this air traffic was envisioned and the operator might be notified in a timely manner about possible risky scenarios.

According to SkeyDrone Director Hendrik-Jan Van der Gucht, the BVLOS pilot flight is a start to U-space in Belgium: “With this test, we have actually successfully shown how BVLOS flights can be performed safely in an intricate environment. The next step is to evolve towards a scalable option with a view to the implementation of U-space in Belgium. Together with our partners, we have the aspiration to additional unlock the potential of drone technology in our society.”

Elia manages more than 19,000 km of power lines in Belgium and Germany. The tracks must be examined frequently in order to ensure the energy supply in a safe method. These assessments can be carried out by means of drones in a safe, efficient and sustainable method.

French test flight follow up It’s not the first time that a SwissDrones drone is used for a BVLOS drone flight for the examination of a high-voltage racé. In April this year, the business performed an inspection flight in France, as part of a powerline assessment challenge released by the French grid operator RTE. No long distance was bridged

, SwissDrones was the only party to spot a flaw by methods of an automated drone flight. Throughout the test in Belgium, a similar automatic drone flight was performed, but over a distance of no less than 100 km, well out of sight of the pilot(BVLOS). The flight was run with the SDO 50 V2. This drone has an optimum flight time of 3 hours and can carry approximately 45 kg of payload.

Search and rescue

Early last year, Air Zermatt AG, in cooperation with SwissDrones, carried out another record flight with the same type of drone in Switzerland. Throughout that flight, the unmanned helicopter flew in windy conditions at an elevation of no less than 11,500 feet (approx. 3,500 meters) at an air temperature of -10 ºC. The function of that flight was to examine the viability of the system for search and rescue missions.

(cover image: SkeyDrone)