Iridium Partner American Aerospace Receives FAA Approval for BVLOS Drone Operations in Oil and Gas Industry

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) a first-of-its-kind waiver for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) commercial operations of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS). This waiver allows AATI to conduct surveillance of critical infrastructure for a multinational oil and gas company in the San Joaquin Valley. This development, enabled by Iridium Communications Inc.’s global satellite connectivity, represents a step towards wider adoption of UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Photo: AiRanger UAS, Credit: American Aerospace Inc.

Enhanced Surveillance Capabilities

AATI’s AiRanger UAS, supported by Iridium’s L-Band satellite connectivity, will provide remote aerial surveillance for the energy corporation’s pipeline and production facilities. Utilizing Iridium’s low-latency network, the drones will transmit data for routine inspections, enhancing situational awareness and reducing costs. The Iridium Connected SkyLink 7100, developed by Blue Sky Network, offers continuous tracking and Command and Control (C2) capabilities, ensuring reliable BVLOS operations.

Compliance and Industry Standards

The AiRanger is the first UAS to meet industry consensus standards for Detect and Avoid (DAA) systems and comply with FAA requirements for BVLOS operations. This compliance paves the way for broader deployment of BVLOS UAS, supporting critical infrastructure monitoring and other applications. The FAA waiver underscores the effectiveness of Iridium’s satellite C2 capabilities in meeting the stringent requirements for large drone operations.

Industry Collaboration and Technological Innovation

John Peterson, Executive Director of Aviation at Iridium, highlighted the importance of this achievement: “This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application. When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers get together, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what’s possible with reliable satellite communications.”

Future Prospects

Iridium continues to work closely with the drone industry to establish safe separation using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) avionics. Last year, Iridium published a whitepaper addressing the challenges of safely and efficiently integrating UAS into the NAS. The whitepaper includes a recommended equipment list and highlights the capabilities enabled by the Iridium network that support scalable UAS operations.