State Farm granted first national FAA waiver to conduct UAS flights over people and BVLOS

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State Farm has become the first company in the U.S. to receive a national waiver from the FAA that allows it to conduct UAS operations over people (OOP) and flights beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS) through November 2022. Previously, State Farm received waivers that were limited to a short time frame and to specific geographic areas impacted by hurricanes.

​A member of Virginia’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) team, State Farm says that the waiver will also open up new innovation opportunities for the company by allowing longer-distance flights.

“It’s been a team effort to make drone technology a reality,” says Senior Vice President for P&C Claims Robert Yi.

“The waiver will provide our claims specialists with another way to efficiently help customers. We can use drones to assess on-the-ground damage and deploy resources. This is a huge win for our customers and demonstrates we’re recognized as a leader in drone technology.”

Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) played an integral role in helping State Farm obtain this waiver, as the company has worked with MAAP on UAS safety case research for nearly two years.

State Farm and MAAP have conducted several tests that evaluated senseFly’s fixed-wing eBee Classic UAS, which is designed for longer-distance damage assessment flights. The strength of the research and resulting safety case documentation resulted in the FAA approving temporary waivers for State Farm to conduct damage-assessment UAS flights over people and beyond the operator’s visual line of sight in states effected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

State Farm says that successful flights following the two hurricanes provided “valuable real-world experience and insights” that were incorporated into the national waiver request.

“State Farm had a compelling proposal for how drones could improve their customer experience and an unwavering commitment to safety,” says Mark Blanks, Director of MAAP.

“MAAP had the operational expertise and the research experience to help them navigate the approval process and collect supporting data. This success shows how powerful it can be when industry and academia collaborate to break new ground.”