Skip to main content

BVLOS Waivers for Public Safety

Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) waivers from the Federal Aviation Administrations are now available to public safety organizations that fly drones. 

The FAA released the BVLOS waiver guide for first responders during its annual Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium last week.  If the waiver is granted to an organization, BVLOS flights must comply with a variety of spatial regulations and be performed only when absolutely necessary. 

“In a time of extreme emergencies to safeguard human life,” the guide reads, “first responders require the capability to operate their unmanned aircraft (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to assess the operational environment such as a fire scene at a large structural fire, to conduct an aerial search on a large roof area for a burglary in progress, or to fly over a heavily forested area to look for a missing person.”

During a BVLOS flight, a drone cannot be flown more than 1,500 feet away from the pilot.  In addition, a pilot can’t fly a drone “any higher than 50 feet above or greater than 400 feet laterally of the nearest obstacle,” according to the guide.

Christopher Todd, executive director of the Airborne International Response Team, said in an email that the new waiver “was the culmination of over nine months of work” performed by a variety of partners, including DRONERESPONDERS, York County (Virginia) Fire and Life Safety, Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego Integration Pilot Program.