Kansas State Polytechnic becomes first university to receive waiver to fly UAS BLOS

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Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus has become the first university to receive a waiver from the FAA to fly UAS beyond the line of sight (BLOS).

The FAA certificate to Kansas State Polytechnic's Applied Aviation Research Center waives the rules regarding visual sight of aircraft operations by the pilot and visual observers, which will allow K-State Polytechnic to conduct research and operations where pilots and observers can no longer see their UAS.

“These operations and research will provide valuable insight into regulation and safety measures for UAS in the national airspace,” says Travis Balthazor, Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS flight operations manager.

“At the time of notification to us, the FAA's website showed only 20 waivers to this regulation, and only half are waived to allow small UAS operations where the remote pilot in command and the visual observers may not be able to see the aircraft.”

Ultimately for Balthazor, this waiver is a “significant first step” in K-State Polytechnic’s efforts to “further develop the safety case for longer range small UAS operations.”

“We have been working deliberately over the last two years to demonstrate our ability to safely adhere to the standards set forth in our waiver,” Balthazor adds.

For Kurt Carraway, the Applied Aviation Research Center's UAS executive director, this waiver is important to K-State Polytechnic's research and partnership with the FAA in integrating UAS into the national airspace system.

“This is a significant step in meeting our strategic goals of incorporating sound research and a safety centric approach to UAS operations to help the industry and the FAA continue to integrate UAS into the national airspace system,” Carraway explains.

“We are pleased to have been a partner with PrecisionHawk in their Pathfinder II project, which gave us some of the baseline experience we needed to make the safety case.”

A member of the Kansas UAS Joint Task Force, Kansas State University is also a key partner with the Kansas Department of Transportation, which was recently named one of the 10 participants in the FAA's UAS Integration Pilot Program.

“This waiver is an initial component of the 'crawl, walk, run' aspect of our approach to larger-scale beyond-the-line-of-sight operations,” Carraway says.

“In addition to our efforts affiliated with the Kansas Department of Transportation's Integration Pilot Program, we will offer flight operations training and consulting to help other entities gain similar waivers. This is consistent with the Kansas State University land-grant mission of transferring our knowledge to promote the greater good of the industry.”