American Water recently announced a significant milestone for its Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Program. American Water has been granted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waiver to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). This waiver will allow American Water to fly 4-miles from the UAS pilot providing the company with the opportunity to enhance its monitoring of source water and potential environmental threats to the water supply.
“This waiver is a significant achievement for American Water and our UAS program,” said Christopher Kahn, Director of UAS, American Water. “Annually, American Water captures more than 500,000 images & aerial maps of its assets through our drone program. These images help us monitor our systems and continue to provide our customers with safe, reliable water and wastewater service.”
American Water also places a significant emphasis on aviation safety. The company utilizes an aviation Safety Management System (SMS), and its pilots receive up to 250 hours of initial training, depending on complexity of airframe and mission. Beyond training, the SMS provides a structured means of safety risk management decision making.
In addition to source water monitoring, American Water intends to utilize BVLOS for emergency response activities. “As a water utility, many of our critical facilities are low-lying and can be inaccessible for extended periods of time during flooding events,” Kahn says, “Our long-range mapping and inspection airframes, the Censys Technologies Sentaero BVLOS V2, provides the ability to safely inspect facilities from miles away, while staying in the air for well over an hour.”
“American Water earning this FAA approval is important for the integration of drones in the national airspace because it is an example of enterprise operation standardization across multiple applications,” says Trevor Perrott, CEO & Co-Founder Censys Technologies. “Through American Water’s leadership, our country is another step closer to making safe BVLOS drone missions commonplace. The exciting part is the story doesn’t end here.”
American Water is currently working closely with several government agencies and partner organizations to enable BVLOS UAS missions during Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), which are commonly in place after natural disasters.