In April 2021, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a rule allowing drone Operations Over People (OOP) and Moving Vehicles (OOMV). With the new rule, approved UAS don’t need a waiver to conduct these operations.
AgEagle’s eBee X series drones are the first and only UAVs to date approved by the FAA for OOP and OOMV in the United States under the new rule.
In this guide, AgEagle’s Head of Regulation, Pierre-Alain Marchand, explains the current U.S. regulations for flying over people and over moving vehicles.
The U.S. rule Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Over People is divided into four categories that determine the eligibility and operational conditions under which it is permitted to fly certified drones over people and over moving vehicles:
Fly over people (OOP)
Fly over moving vehicles (OOMV)
Currently, AgEagle’s eBee X series drones are the first and only approved sUAS by the FAA for Operations Over People (OOP) and Moving Vehicles (OOMV) in the United States. Moreover, they are Remote ID approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Other professional drones, such as Wingtra, Quantum-Systems, or the DJI M300 RTK drone are not eligible for OOP and OOMV until a change in their design is made (for example, adding a parachute).
Note, however, that adding a parachute increases the weight and hence decreases the flight time. Moreover, parachute mitigation can fail, while mitigation on drone design doesn’t.
Currently, the only assessment protocol approved by the FAA is the one from Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), which doesn’t allow parachutes for impact testing.
Waivers are granted case-by-case for a specific drone, flight location, mission, and more unalterable parameters. If something in the mission changes, a new waiver is needed.
With the new rule, once the aircraft and its potential risk of injury are assessed according to an FAA-accepted method (MOC) and get the OOP approval, the complex waiver process is no longer necessary.
Getting a waiver is still technically possible. However, the number of approved waivers in the U.S. for OOP (107.39) was low in 2022 – only 19, mostly for delivery drones – and it’s expected to continue decreasing in 2023.
Waivers already issued and still in the process are valid. Nevertheless, the renewal procedure can be complex now that a new rule is in place and that the FAA has shown a clear preference for OOP certified drones.
Moreover, with a waiver, flights over people are generally limited to sparsely populated areas.
To be an OOMV and OOP approved drone, the aircraft must undergo thorough testing to demonstrate operational safety around people.
The only approved drones to fly over people in the U.S. are the eBee X series sUAS. The assessment was done by Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (VT MAAP), and it consisted of:
If you want more details about the testing regime, read VT MAAP’s article.
Pilots that would like to fly over people in the United States must have the following:
Drone pilots are responsible for checking outside conditions when planning a mission. The airspace is shared with other aircraft, and the ground has restricted zones, such as prisons or airports, which prohibit flyovers.
In eMotion, the flight planning software for eBee drones, U.S. geo-zones are integrated, making it easier to plan your mission.
For air traffic awareness, the eBee X Ping USB accessory is an ADS-B device that allows the operator to view live air traffic data directly within eMotion.
Purchasing a drone that matches your operational needs while bearing in mind U.S. drone regulation compliance can greatly simplify your operations. We strongly recommend that you check:
For more information about the U.S. or other drone regulations, contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
OOP – Drone Operations Over People
OOMV – Drone Operations Over Moving Vehicles
BVLOS – Flights Beyond Visual Line of Sight
sUAS – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Synonyms: UAS, UAV, drone.
FAA – Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. The agency regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the country.
Remote ID – UAS remote identification. A drone with Remote ID built-in and approved by the FAA, like the eBee X, provides identification and location information during the flight. This electronic license plate ensures public safety and reduces security risks by notifying other aircraft of the UAV’s identity, position and altitude. All drone pilots are required to fly Remote ID-compliant drones from September 2023.
Waiver – Official document issued by the FAA which approves certain aircraft operations. You may request to fly specific drone operations not allowed under Part 107 or when the drone is not OOP certified by requesting an operational waiver.
Part 107 – The FAA Part 107 is the regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in the U.S. In order to fly your drone under the sUAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA.
MOC – Means of Compliance. Testing method to prove operational drone safety around people. The FAA must approve the MOC. The method evaluation process includes drone failure mode and safety defect assessment, impact and laceration testing, and more.
DOC – Declaration of Compliance. Form submitted to the FAA page where the manufacturer declares that the drone complies with the MOC. Besides the form, the manufacturer must submit the testing report (received by the testing center) and the user manual for OOP. The DOC is necessary for final OOP drone approval.
Geo-zone – Information on the geographical zones that a drone can fly over. Generally excluded geo-zones are prisons, airports and other national security key points.
ADS-B – Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast technology. Live air traffic device.
AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc provides this information for informational purposes only. The texts, graphics, images, and references don’t constitute legal advice. While we try to keep the information timely and accurate, we make no guarantees. AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc. is not liable for the actions taken based on this document’s information.
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On 1 January 2021, the European Commission harmonized civil drone regulations across the following countries: European Union’s 27-Member States + Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland (process ongoing), and United Kingdom (partially).
The regulations require all operators of drones above 250 g to register with their country’s National Aviation Authority (NAA). This can be where the operator lives or at their principal place of business. This registration is valid for the period defined by the NAA.
Once registered, the operator receives a registration number that must be displayed on all its drones and uploaded onto the remote identification system. This number is recognized in all European Union member states.
AgEagle’s Head of Regulation Pierre-Alain Marchand explains the current European drone regulations in this blog post.
The European regulatory framework (2019/945 and 2019/947) takes an operation risk-based approach, which considers the drone’s weight, technical and safety specifications and the type of operation being conducted.
There are three categories of drone operations in the EU regulations:
Open Category (including transitional Limited Open Category)
The Open Category for low-risk operations is composed of:
Both are for UAS under 25 kg and have the following operational limitations: max. flight altitude 120 m AGL and visual line of sight (VLOS) flights.
Operations in the Open Category do not require authorization from a National Aviation Authority (NAA) because they are considered low risk.
To give drone manufacturers time to certify their drones for the Open Category, a Limited Open Category transition period is in effect until December 2023.
This Limited Open Category is composed of three subcategories based on the drone’s maximum take-off weight including payload (MTOW):
A1 subcategory – For drones below 500 g MTOW
A2 subcategory – For drones below 2 kg MTOW – eBee X series
A3 subcategory – Drones between 2 kg and 25 kg MTOW – WingtraOne GEN II VTOL, Quantum Trinity F90+ eVTOL and DJI Matrice 300 RTK
The drone entries this category once assessed by a Notified Body and granted with one of the class identifications C0, C1, C2, C3, C4. The higher the class number, the greater the operational limitations. The drone manufacturer is responsible for certifying the drones.
The Open Category is subdivided into:
COMPARISON: C2-A2 vs C3-A3
The most common class identifications for professional drones are C2 and C3, operating in Open Category A2 and A3.
C2 class drone flying in subcategory A2 – e.g. eBee X series
C3 class drone flying in subcategory A3 – e.g. WingtraOne GEN II VTOL, Quantum Trinity F90+ eVTOL and DJI Matrice 300 RTK
All eBee X, eBee Ag and eBee Geo drones shipped in Europe by AgEagle from September 2022, include the C2 label at no extra cost.
For eBee X series drones already in the market, we will provide customers with an option to be C2 compliant by December 2023, when the Limited Open Category concludes.
Operational advantages of C2 drones:
If your business operations require flying BVLOS, OOP, or near residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas – not accessible to heavy VTOLs and quadcopters – you can now benefit from the regulatory advantages of C2 lightweight drones by upgrading to an eBee fixed-wing UAS.
For more information contact us at email@example.com.
This category applies to drone operations which pose a level of risk not covered under the Open Category, such as extended visual line of sight operations (EVLOS), beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), operations over people (OOP), or package delivery.
One of four procedures should be followed to operate in this category, for all of which the drone operator is required to obtain a National Aviation Authority (NAA) authorization:
Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA): The suggested method for eBee users, as they benefit from a simplified process thanks to eBee X series drones M2 Ground Risk Class (GCR) mitigation. Drone operators are required to perform a risk appraisal using the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology. This 10-step process defines the risk of the mission, that will be assessed by the NAA. For more info on SORA, read here.
The eBee X series drones are the industry’s first UAVs to receive a Design Verification Report from EASA on the M2 Ground Risk Class (GRC) mitigation, a step in the SORA process to obtain BVLOS and OOP approval.
As a result, eBee X operators benefit from a simplified SORA authorization process by having a lower ground risk score without needing additional verification from EASA.
Predefined Risk Assessment (PDRA): This is an assessment to conduct basic advanced operations (such as EVLOS at 120 m / 150 m) in Europe, with a scenario already covered by one of the EASA published PDRAs. Because the risk of the operation is lower, instead of conducting a full risk assessment, the operator will have to provide some documentation to support the application for NAA authorization.
Standard Scenario (STS): Upcoming. Analogous to the PDRA, but the drone must have a class marking (C5 or C6). The mission is conducted under a predefined operation published by the EASA. The operator must submit an operation declaration to the NAA where he/she is registered and await confirmation.
Note: Upcoming class identification C5 and C6 will be available for Standard Scenarios. When available, the eBee X series will apply to obtain C6 certification for BVLOS operations with airspace observers over a controlled ground area in a sparsely populated environment (STS-02).
Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC): Rare certificate to which only organizations can apply after filling the requirements. It’s mainly for repetitive missions with the same operational characteristics. Organizations with a LUC certificate can self-assess the operation’s risk and self-authorize it under their responsibility.
Operations that fall under the Certified Category are those that are believed to pose the highest risk because they would likely involve the transportation of people or dangerous goods, envisioned for air taxis or cargo drones.
Purchasing a drone that matches your operational needs and with EU drone regulation compliance in mind can simplify your operation processes. We strongly recommend that you check:
For more information about the EU or other drone regulations, contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Europe, new regulations and processes are being established to ensure Flights Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and Operations Over People (OOP) are conducted safely and responsibly. These advanced drone operations are very efficient options for collecting large amounts of data quickly, but they also come with extra safety and logistical considerations.
AgEagle’s Head of Regulation Pierre-Alain Marchand explains in this blog post the main steps to achieve a SORA authorization to conduct BVLOS and OOP missions under the European drone regulations.
Do you prefer to watch it online? European drone regulations – SORA explained
On January 1, 2021, the European Union (EU) started standardizing civil drone regulations across the continent. Prior to this date, drone regulations differed from country to country. By standardizing the rules, the EU aims to make drone operations easier and safer for everyone.
The new rules replace each European Union state’s existing laws and apply to all drone operators. This allows a drone pilot to operate in all the member states, once he or she is registered in one of these countries.
The EU drone regulation is applicable in these 27 European Union member states:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden
Plus: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland (ongoing), UK (partial adoption).
The EU drone regulation is divided into three categories, Open, Specific and Certified, each detailing accessibility based on the characteristics of the drone platform in use and type of operation.
Certified Category – designated for higher-risk operations such as the delivery of dangerous goods with a drone.
Specific Category – designated for advanced operations such as flying Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS), Operations Over People (OOP), flying multiple drones in fleet, and more.
Open Category – designated for low-risk operations such as Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) flights under 120 m in altitude.
If your operation can’t be conducted in the Open Category or is not falling under a standard scenario of the Specific Category, you will require approval from your National Aviation Authority (NAA) according to the SORA methodology.
SORA stands for Specific Operations Risk Assessment. It’s a 10-step risk process within the EU Specific Category to define the safety requirements to conduct your OOP and BVLOS operations.
In this article, we will focus on 4 SORA crucial steps:
SORA contains the following table that you can use to determine the ground risk of your operation.
1. Check the characteristics of your drone, such as size and kinetic energy. This will determine which column of the table your operation will fall.
With its size and cruise speed, the eBee X falls into the first column on the left (1 m / approx. 3 ft).
2. Define the operational scenario (BVLOS / VLOS, populated area / sparsely populated / gathering of people, etc.) This will define in which row of the table your operation will fall.
3. The intersection of the column and row will give you your Ground Risk Class value.
Example: Let’s say you want to do a BVLOS operation over a populated area – your initial ground risk would be 5 as seen in the first column.
Your drone platform of choice can provide you with some benefits through Ground Risk mitigation. See below.
It’s possible to reduce the Ground Risk Class with the mitigation M1, M2 and M3.
M1 – is a strategic mitigation put into place by the pilot in command before the operation.
M2 – is based on the drone design, you need to prove that the drone has a low risk in case of collision.
M3 – is dependent on the operator’s emergency response plan.
As an industry-leading manufacturer, we have worked with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to get an M2 mitigation of -1 or -2 (depending on the payload) for eBee X, eBee Geo and eBee Ag drones. Through continued work with EASA, we expect to achieve a higher max flight altitude for -2 in the near future.
The EASA design verification report for M2 mitigation demonstrates that the eBee drones meet the highest possible quality and ground risk safety standards and, thanks to its lightweight design, effects of ground impact are reduced. As such, drone operators conducting advanced drone operations in the 27 European Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland can obtain the HIGH (-2) or MEDIUM (-1) robustness levels of the M2 mitigation without additional verification from EASA.
Example: Going back to our initial Ground Risk of 5, with M2 mitigation, you could reach a Ground Risk as low as 3 for BVLOS operations over a populated area.
The next step in the process is the Air Risk Assessment. You’ll need to determine which Air Risk Class your operation is conducted in:
ARC – a – If you’re operating in restricted airspace (for example, if a NOTAM is in place).ARC – b – If you operate in uncontrolled airspace over a rural area.ARC – c – If you operate in uncontrolled airspace over an urban area.ARC – d – If you operate in controlled airspace.
It’s important to note that for BVLOS operations in ARC categories b, c, or d, you will need a solution to see and avoid air traffic.
Example: A BVLOS operation with the eBee X that will be conducted over an urban area will fall within the ARC – c.
Similar to the Ground Risk, it’s possible to reduce the initial Air Risk to ARC – b (rural) if traffic is lower than expected. For example, because manned aviation is rare at low altitudes above cities.
Next, you’ll determine the SAIL level of your operation based on the Ground Risk Class (GRC) and the Air Risk Class (ARC).
Example: Using our earlier designations of Ground Risk Class 3 and Air Risk of ARC – b, you can see that the SAIL level would be II, which remains easy to achieve.
There are alternative methods to approval, however, they are not as simple.
Without our mitigation, the SAIL level would be IV, making it more difficult because it requires several months of work and an expensive review of the design by the EASA.
With a larger drone and without mitigation the SAIL level would be a V, making it extremely difficult because you will require a full certification of your solution.
Once you have your SAIL level determined, you need to prove that you comply with each Operational Safety Objective (OSO).
A different level of justification is required based on the SAIL of your operation:
O = OptionalL = Low M = MediumH = High
Finally, we’re able to leverage our SAIL II classification to determine the level of operational safety objectives.
Example: Referencing the above chart using our SAIL II classification, OSO 7 states that light inspection of the UAS (product inspection) is required to ensure consistency with the Concept of Operations (ConOps).
You’ll need several documents to request authorization from your National Aviation Authority. We’ve created a comprehensive list of document templates that makes the application process smoother for eBee owners:
ConOps – You’ll need to describe when and where you’ll fly, the procedures, your training and details about the drone you’ll use.
Document templates – To facilitate the process and save you tens of hours of paperwork, we’ve prepared a set of documentation you can adapt for your own SAIL I or SAIL II operation.
Direct contact – For more information or to request document templates, contact us at email@example.com.
There have already been some early adopters of SORA, who have taken advantage of the eBee X M2 mitigation when seeking approvals from their National Aviation Authorities.
Safe Drone Academy is based in Ireland and has been approved for VLOS over populated areas.
Romania-based SysCAD Solutions is approved for BVLOS operations over sparsely populated and populated areas.
Guide – Advanced drone operations: BVLOS, OOP, multi-drone
AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc. announces that eBee X, eBee Geo and eBee Ag are the first commercial drones to be designated with the C2 class identification label in accordance with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations. As of August 22, 2022, drone operators flying C2 labeled eBees will be able to conduct missions in the “Open Category”, with all the advantages that this entails.
The C2 certification allows the eBee X series, with correct labelling, to fly at a horizontal distance of 30 meters from uninvolved people. By contrast, heavy drones like VTOLs or quadcopters must maintain a distance of 150 meters from people and any residential, commercial, industrial and recreational areas, limiting their operational capabilities to remote zones.
According to Barrett Mooney, Chairman and CEO of AgEagle, “When compared to the weight and safety profiles of other competitive commercial drones, only the eBee are cleared to fly commercial operations near people with the C2 class identification label. This represents a huge market differential for our customers in Europe, that will be able to operate around populated areas without any formal permission or regulatory waiver”.
In addition, the eBee X series are also the industry’s first drones (June 2022) to receive a Design Verification Report (DVR) from EASA on M2 Ground Risk Mitigation for the European “Specific Category” to conduct BVLOS and Operations Over People (OOP). The DVR paves the way for European drone operators to seek approvals from their applicable National Aviation Authorities.
To be designated as a C2 aircraft, eBees underwent rigorous testing and evaluation by the accredited laboratory NavCert GmbH to confirm that they meet specific EASA criteria. C2 class aircraft must weigh less than 4 kg / 8.8 lbs maximum takeoff weight (MTOM), have remote ID and geo-awareness, and be compliant with the safety and manufacturing standards of the European Union.
Marcel Visser, Managing Director of NavCert GmbH, stated, “We congratulate AgEagle on this important achievement, and we wish them a high market share for the eBee X series drones. We are grateful that NavCert has been selected as the Notified Body (NB 2603) to assess the eBee X series fixed-wing drones for the CE mark. Our background in the aviation industry and the development of the EN 4709 standard has been essential to performing the technical assessments required in the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on unmanned aircraft systems. We will continue to ensure the required level of quality and safety for drone operations in the European Union”.
All eBee X, eBee Ag and eBee Geo drones shipped by AgEagle company, from September 2022, will include the C2 label at no extra cost.
For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc.
Through its three centers of excellence, AgEagle is actively engaged in designing and delivering best-in-class flight hardware, sensors and software that solve important problems for its customers. Founded in 2010, AgEagle was originally formed to pioneer proprietary, professional-grade, fixed-winged drones and aerial imagery-based data collection and analytics solutions for the agriculture industry. Today, AgEagle is a leading provider of full stack drone solutions for customers worldwide in the energy, construction, agriculture, and government verticals. For additional information, please visit our website at www.ageagle.com.
About NavCert GmbH.
NavCert is the first laboratory ever accredited in Europe in the field of GNSS. The firm provides worldwide technical services, verification, validation, and voluntary certification services in the areas of precise positioning, navigation, velocity and timing. NavCert is accredited as certification body for the assessing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS) and is a Notified Body (NB 2603) of the German Federal Office of Civil Aeronautics for the EU Type Examination and Certification of fixed-wing, VTOL and multicopter UAS in classes C0 to C6 in the Open Category according to the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945. NavCert chairs the coordination group of notified bodies for UAS. These activities are complemented by GAP analysis of specification and documentation and pre-testing.
As companies continue to place more emphasis on their drone programs to accomplish a wide range of tasks, there’s an increasing need for a single software platform to centralize all the necessary operations.
With the right flight planning software, companies can eliminate the need for multiple apps and quickly and efficiently manage their multi-drone fleets.
When it comes to choosing the flight software for your drone program, there are six important capabilities to consider. Let’s dive into these features to ensure the program you’ve been looking into is the best fit.
When looking at the different flight planning software options, the first step to selecting the right software for your needs is to make sure that the software is compatible with the drone you plan on using to complete your missions. If you are choosing flight planning software for a multi-drone fleet, make sure the software will support all your drones if they are different makes or models. This will eliminate the frustration of having different drones running on different platforms and provides the benefit of simplifying your flight planning operations.
Flight planning software should allow the user to have a centralized platform to complete the required steps of a drone mission without having to jump back and forth between multiple apps. The ideal flight planning software will allow you to create and schedule missions, manage your mission calendar, assign pilots and equipment to missions, send notifications, check airspace and weather conditions as well as create and execute flight plans all in a single platform.
The software should also give the user the ability to fly manual and automated flight plans, including both waypoint and grid flights, and be capable of re-flying specific sections of a grid flight if updated or new data is needed without the user needing to rebuild flight plans or re-fly the entire mission.
By streamlining the entire process, the right flight planning software saves both time and money through increased efficiency and productivity.
Most drone programs will require input from various team members to schedule, plan, and execute each drone mission. A critical requirement for today’s flight planning software is the ability for different team members to be able to access the flight plans independently without the need to share a log-in or link. The advantage of a collaborative environment is it allows team members who may be working in the same office or as far away as a remote job site to quickly and seamlessly work together on a project, increasing the speed of communication and reducing downtime.
With team members working across different devices and different platforms, it’s critical that your flight planning software supports the technical requirements of all users. The right flight planning software should work across both iOS and Android devices as well as both mobile and desktop platforms. The software should also have the ability to sync flight plans seamlessly between devices and platforms, meaning a flight plan can be created and saved on a desktop device and quickly accessed by a mobile team out in the field, increasing efficiencies and eliminating unnecessary delays.
Team members are often out completing missions in remote areas with limited or no access to wifi or a reliable internet connection. When selecting flight planning software, look for one that allows all flight plans to be downloaded and cached on each device, ensuring that the mission can be completed even when there is no internet available. It should also have the ability to store any data collected from completed missions in the flight app until an internet connection is re-established. This gives your drone pilots the ability to complete missions at any time and in any location without having to worry about maintaining a signal.
As land use is constantly changing, being able to access the most up-to-date geographic data is critical. When looking at the different options for flight planning software, having the ability to reference a KML file on both desktop and mobile devices are becoming essential. This benefits drone pilots by giving them the most relevant data to ensure a mission is carried out successfully and without costly errors.
With these capabilities in mind, you can choose the right flight planning software for your organization. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of using Measure Ground Control as your flight planning software, click here.
It’s no secret that advanced drone operations bring a robust return on investment, but how easy are they to implement into your workflow? We sat down with Michael Blake, AgEagle Product Manager, to discuss if Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) should be considered a simple tool or if in-depth training and education are needed to become a compliant advanced drone operator.
As drones have become more accessible, advanced drone operations are gaining momentum. So, what do we mean by advanced drone operations? Generally, they are operations including flights Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), Operations Over People (OOP), and flying multiple drones as part of a fleet. These operations are very efficient for collecting data, but they come with extra safety and logistical considerations as they are considered more complex.
For instance, you usually need more forward planning and permissions from the relevant authorities to show that your drone can fly safely, in line with local legislation. You also typically need a drone capable of longer flight times. So, the debate on whether drones are a simple tool or require serious piloting skills is more important than ever to ensure safety.
With more aircraft in the air than ever before, drone pilots need to think outside their operations and be mindful of other air traffic. Knowing how to operate drones is just one aspect of integrating drones into workflows; it is also important to use them safely and responsibly.
Across the globe, the rules for flying drones vary widely from country to country, often needing different waivers to be completed – to varying levels of training. Drone operators are responsible for learning new skills and understanding the regulatory landscape as legislation evolves.
There are widespread preconceptions in the aviation industry that drones can pose risks to other aircraft in the same airspace. Similarly, without an in-depth understanding, it may appear that no flying skills are needed – since there is not a pilot on board. This makes it more important to break down the barriers to help ensure safety, as well as smooth integration into airspace, allowing drones and other aircraft to comfortably co-exist.
Operators need to feel comfortable in terms of usage, safety, responsibility, reliability and transportability. Fixed-wing UAVs, like the eBee X, are ideal for BVLOS flights. They’re lightweight and easy to operate, making them safe, with efficient batteries and airframes, which means they can map mid-to large-scale areas with ease. These UAS also have hundreds of thousands of operational flight hours and safety testing, which can help streamline and accelerate BVLOS waiver approvals.
An effective pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight troubleshooting strategy is key to integrating drones into workflows, as well as carrying a high-quality set of spare parts. Not forgetting a consistent level of training to help maintain knowledge and follow any recent updates.
Drone integration into advanced operations will continue to evolve as regulations change around the world. Currently, limited understanding and commonly held perceptions are barriers for adopting UAVs into workflows.
With the right system and training, drones are safe, responsible and easy to use, integrating seamlessly into workflows and airspaces with other aircraft well, to provide a range of benefits.
There is still work to be done to increase awareness and improve drone training – both within the industry and wider society. But the positive steps that have been taken in recent years look set to propel fixed-wings into the future for many years to come.
To continue your training and become an eBee expert with our Certified Operator program, visit: https://www.senseflyacademy.com/
Drones are fast becoming a crucial tool in agriculture, but how do you know if they are the right choice for your business? Olivia Soares de Camargo, Customer Service and Satisfaction Engineer at AgEagle, explores the tangible benefits of drone technology in agriculture -AgTech- and the key considerations before investing.
For farmers and agronomists, estimating annual yield more accurately can help make decisions and manage expectations. Here, drones can offer many benefits, helping to gather more on-demand insights, quickly and efficiently, in a non-destructive way. For example, growers can scout entire fields without ever setting foot in the rows, which helps avoid soil compaction and the spread of pests and diseases while minimizing risks to the worker’s safety.
Return on investment is also crucial. A drone can initially seem like an expensive investment, but it offers many long-term benefits for farmers. Actionable insights gained from drone technology quickly pay for themselves and can be realized in as little as one season.
When taking labor into consideration, if the personnel available is not sufficient to check, or scout the property in question – or if the area is too large to be covered by traditional measures – it may be time to seek alternative methods, such as a drone, that can map up to 500 ha in one single flight.
Plus, when it comes to crops, is productivity below expectations or irregular? Some farmers also decide to switch to agrotechnology with a drone when producing high-value crops, using precision systems, or practicing integrated pest, weed, and disease management (IPM).
Not all drones have the same features. Purchasing one for the first time can be a daunting decision: it needs to be easy to operate and provide high-performance and reliable data collection but at an affordable entry point.
Fixed-wing drones like the eBee X are well placed to meet these requirements – particularly in agriculture applications where greater coverage and longer flight times are needed. Although it is variable depending on the needs of the operation, an integrated solution of drone, camera, and software (including flight management and post-processing) is widely favored.
The eBee X technology also offers the option to upgrade to other features for longer flight times and increased accuracy, with options such as Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) and Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK) and endurance extensions for longer flight times.
The choice of drone sensor is key. Multispectral and RGB are the main cameras used for several applications pre, during, and postseason and the insights gained help direct agronomists and crop scouts to the right spot early.
Orthomosaic maps (RGB sensor) are used for planning the planting prioritizing, soil conservation and for water management to avoid erosion/leaching. NDVI maps with vegetation indices generation (multispectral sensor) highlight crop health, development and production, depending on the crop, variety, and stage.
For example, thanks to the NDVI dataset (right), the farmer can identify various issues in the field.
When it comes to image processing, fixed-wing drones are a great option for reducing human error, while preserving image quality. Users can also carry out the same missions over the same fields on different dates, to compare data, monitor changes and eliminate extra variables.
Choosing RTK/PPK position referencing technology adds an even greater level of accuracy without the need for ground control points.
Once the images are collected, they also need to be processed after the flight, to generate final data outputs – the maps such as orthomosaic, contour line, vegetation index, etc, using specialized software. For this reason, many manufacturers, like AgEagle, generates images in universal formats that are compatible with a range of post-processing software.
The right drone needs to be easy to use and simple to integrate with your workflow and other technologies. It must also be robust, and suitable for withstanding harsh agricultural environments. And how easy is the drone to transport? Ideally, your chosen UAS should be lightweight for carrying between fields and for operating within more regulatory frameworks.
We also advise that agriculture professionals check that their drone is compliant with the appropriate local regulations. Drone regulations still vary significantly across the globe, so keeping up to date with the latest regulatory changes is essential.
Depending on the manufacturer’s standard of technical support available, it can be simple to check if the equipment complies with your local regulations. In the US, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a Part 107 certification to become a licensed drone operator and fly commercially on a farm.
Buying a drone can seem like a big decision, but the opportunities they bring are hard to ignore for farmers and agronomists. New uses are being discovered all the time across the farm, and new applications within each crop continue to rise.
The more time you spend using your drone in the field, the more you will understand the significance of the data, and the easier it will be to see trends and make tangible changes in your workflow. Many drone manufacturers offer online training, to help users get the most out of their devices.
It is an exciting time to invest in a drone for agriculture – why don’t you see for yourself?
Today’s eBee X performance is the direct result of our 12 years of industry experience and direct customer feedback. Our fixed-wing is built to boost your data collection’s quality, efficiency, and safety like no other.
The eBee X features the latest evolution of technology beyond previous models.
Suitable for the following industries: Surveying, mapping, agriculture, engineering, construction, environmental monitoring, research, education, utilities, crisis management, humanitarian, mining, quarries, and many more.
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Thanks for chatting with us today, Ben. To get started, can you give us a little background as to how the eBee Geo came about and its link to eBee X?
With eBee X, we brought a lot of new tech to the eBee platform and a lot of improvements. I’m talking primarily about improved robustness and improved product modularity. The goal with eBee X was to appeal to a broad range of customers that want to boost their surveying and data acquisition capabilities with the type of efficiency achievable with a fixed-wing drone.
Over time and through customer feedback, we realized that there was and is a growing contingent of customers that don’t need all the bells and whistles eBee X provides. So, for those customers, we developed eBee Geo to be a professional-grade fixed-wing mapping drone that features many of the same state-of-the-art technologies found on the eBee X but streamlined for customers with narrower project requirements.
What are some key features that set eBee Geo apart from other drones and/or terrestrial surveying tools?
eBee Geo is in line with the design philosophy of all senseFly drones, which means it’s ultra-light and safe to operate by design. It offers 45 minutes of flight time, which is roughly 50% percent more than what you get from a typical quadcopter. So you gain greater efficiency and mission range.
eBee Geo also comes with the senseFly S.O.D.A. camera. This sensor was designed by [senseFly] and is special in that it is fully intended for drone applications [editor’s note: S.O.D.A. stands for Sensor Optimized for Drone Applications). Because S.O.D.A. is optimized for photogrammetry, it means you’re going to get excellent data quality from this payload. It also comes with RTK as an option, which you can choose to activate when you need it. RTK adds extra efficiency and safety because you don’t have to put GCPs on the ground, which really makes it an efficient solution for medium-to-large-scale mapping.
How does eBee Geo maintain data quality and data consistency?
Data quality is so important for our customers, which is why eBee Geo offers the same professional data quality as our premium eBee X drone. This means state-of-the-art autopilot, professional GNSS board and professional-grade software such as our eMotion flight planning software. You have here the combined experience in camera control, drone control, GNSS information and data management—with the necessary failsafe and quality checks being performed through the entire flight.
What types of use cases and applications is eBee Geo best suited for?
eBee Geo is best suited for medium-to-large mapping missions where you need to create an orthomosaic or DSM. The types of applications are fairly-broad, such as urban mapping, mining and forestry.
Is there a specific size firm or ideal customer that eBee Geo is best suited for?
In terms of customer profile, it really varies. Our goal was to position eBee Geo for customers that may be more cost-conscious. So, it’s certainly a more budget-friendly option. And it’s also a very good value, with many of the same premium features of the eBee X. Of course, not everyone is ready or needs the full capability of the eBee X, so I would say eBee Geo is great for drone service providers that want to add their first fixed-wing to their fleet but at a more approachable price point. eBee Geo is a great entry into professional-grade mapping and the eBee X is available as an upgrade/trade-up, should they need the expanded capabilities when the time is right.
Is there a misconception that fixed-wing drones are more difficult to operate because of how they launch and land? And how does eBee Geo alleviate those concerns?
It’s unfortunate but true that there are misconceptions that fixed-wings are more difficult to operate because of how they land. Also, there is this misconception that fixed-wings are more expensive, which often scare people away from the technology. I can speak to that in a minute, but I want to mention that, like all our eBee X series drones, eBee Geo is easy to launch because you don’t need a catapult and the drone is very light at just 1.3 kg (2.87 lbs). And all our drones feature automated flight, so you plan the mission, launch the drone and then the data capture is all automatic, which not only makes it safer to operate than, say, a quad, but it also means data quality remains consistent because we reduce the chance of operator error that may stem from manually controlling the drone in flight.
So, operating a fixed-wing is actually easier and less risky than a quad because you have less operator error. As for landing, I know from being out in the field that while the landing can seem harsh or even aggressive, I assure you that we’ve designed all our drones specifically for this type of landing and that all our drones are very robust! The kinetic energy is absorbed on impact and with the exception of some minor scuffs and scratches, the drone can take numerous hard impacts and just keeps going!
You mentioned how planning missions in advance is part of the eBee Gee’s automation process, but can you tell us a bit more about eMotion? What makes eMotion so special and what sets it apart from other flight planning software out there?
eMotion is a key element to all of our drones. Usually, people realize they want [our drones] after they see the software! eMotion has been a leading software for 10 years now because it’s easy to use. It has a lot of capability. If you are doing a simple mapping mission it’s very easy to create a flight plan in just a few minutes. eMotion also allows you to fly in very challenging environments, such as mountains and other areas with drastic changes in elevation. So, it’s great in a wide range of environments.
eMotion also offers a lot of safety features. For example, it’s capable of checking if the drone’s altitude is not intersecting with your elevation data, so you don’t have a risk of ground collision. It also has a built-in failsafe regarding how far and high the drone can fly.
Additional failsafe features ensure your data capture is good, which means we maintain full control of the payload, we ensure the camera is taking pictures at the right time and that the geotagging is being recorded properly. There is also a safety failsafe regarding the status of the drone’s battery, which means the drone can determine on its own if it has enough battery to complete its mission and return home safely. If it detects that it does not have the required power, it automatically returns to home, so you don’t have to worry about the drone just falling out of the sky.
eMotion really is the one software you need for planning, execution and post-flight. After gathering your data, you can export projects directly from eMotion toix4D, Trimble Business Center projects, Agisoft and so on.
In terms of integration into other software, how does that work and what is the benefit to customers?
When flying other drones, in the majority of the cases, you have all the pictures in one file on an SD card. After the flight, the user then has to collect the SD card, gather the pictures manually and maybe even do the geotagging in different software, which is additional work and opens up opportunities for mistakes.
What we have with eMotion’s flight data manager and integration with third-party software is that from eMotion you gather the data from the SD card, divide them per flight, geotag via RTK correction and directly from there create the processing project. So it’s faster to do it all via eMotion and less chance of forgetting images or introducing other user errors.
How important is automated flight and mission planning to data quality and reducing user error?
When you create a mission in eMotion, the operator just has to create a background map, click the area where they want to map and everything else like the flight path and where the pictures need to be taken are automatically calculated by the software. When you do photogrammetry, it’s really important that the ground sampling distance (resolution) and overlap stay consistent. eMotion is also the only flight planning software that allows you to import your own map and import your own elevation data into the software.
Getting back to the drone itself. You mentioned robustness – how does eBee Geo maintain its robustness and hardware reliability?
eBee Geo is a drone designed to do belly landings like an airplane. The belly has been reinforced with a special material that is very robust and allows it to take hundreds of landings, protects the electronics and the camera of the drone. The potential risk of injury is also very low, due to the material used. The belly piece is also easily replaceable, so even if the underframe cracks, it can be easily swapped.
In terms of ROI, how does the eBee Geo help surveyors and GIS professionals?
There are many ways. Fixed-wings like the eBee Geo can fly farther and faster on a single battery than quadcopters. That alone can impact how efficiently you collect data and even impact your business’ profit generation. So, not only can you take on a greater variety of projects with a fixed-wing drone, but the extended flight time and versatile nature of the technology make it easier for you to complete jobs quickly. When it comes to medium-to-large area mapping projects or accessing difficult-to-reach sites, eBee Geo makes that easy, too, thanks to its extended flight radius. But it doesn’t just outperform quads, eBee Geo gives you the capability to complete more mapping jobs faster than traditional terrestrial surveying methods, too. And with its available RTK, you gain even more efficiency.
In terms of training, what resources are available to eBee Geo customers?
When learning how to use a drone the first thing that’s important is to get the proper training, so we make sure to properly train and certify our distribution partners around the world. This ensures they have the knowledge, experience and capability needed to train customers. It’s always good to have somebody show you the ropes and provide you with the foundational knowledge you need.
On top of that, we have our new senseFly Academy Training Program and Certified Operator Course that gives you all the skills you need to get the most from your drone and ensure your projects are successful. We also have an extensive library of resources via the senseFly Knowledge Base, which provides detailed answers and step-by-step guides on a wide range of topics related to the drone and mapping.
I know you’re really excited to talk about it, so tell us about the new backpack that now comes with all senseFly drones.
The new backpack is very exciting! It makes transporting all our drones to and from the field easier than ever and is made from a soft yet durable material that protects it from rain and dust. It also weighs only 4.6 kg (10 lbs) empty. Fully loaded with accessories (drone batteries, laptop, etc.), it weighs under 10 kg (22 lbs), so you have everything you need to fly in one convenient and lightweight case.
What happens if something goes wrong during or after a flight?
We believe in a strong local network of support centers through our authorized distributors. If anything goes wrong, simply contact your local distributor and they will help make it right. But we also have a dedicated Customer Service and Support Team in Europe and the US that work with our partners. Anything that is not serviceable by your local dealer comes to our internal teams. They provide quick answers, spare parts when needed and are on hand for more advanced technical support.
What would you say to a customer considering an eBee Geo or an eBee X?
If you have a very specific need in mind that consists of creating orthomosaics and DSMs, then the eBee Geo is a good platform to start with. If you know you want a platform that offers payload modularity and an even higher level of efficiencies, such as longer flight times, range and PPK functionality, then I recommend the eBee X as your platform of choice.
If you’re a longtime drone pilot looking to expand your
fleet or new to the world of professional unmanned aerial systems (UAS),
there’s a lot to consider when investing in a new drone platform.
Before we jump into the exciting details such as advanced
camera payloads, flight capabilities, data quality, and precision mapping outputs
that were not even imaginable years ago, it’s essential that you first understand
which type of aircraft is best suited for your business. Is a multi-rotor
drone, such as a four-propellor-powered quadcopter ideal for most application
needs, or a fixed-wing that more closely resembles a traditional airplane? Or
While there are a lot of differences between these two
platform types, the flight times that result from their unique aerodynamics,
stand to make the biggest business impact.
And the advantages are multi-faceted – let’s take a closer
When it comes to large-scale mapping projects, the eBee X fixed-wing design goes the distance by using efficient aerodynamics to fly up to 90 minutes in a single flight with its endurance extension, while most popular quadcopters can only achieve 30 minutes before requiring a battery swap.
It is crucial to employ a mapping platform that can reach virtually any site, capture critical data and return home – without the risk of running out of battery charge.
The eBee X fixed-wing drone can access a flight radius up to 5.3X larger than the typical quadcopter drone while providing regulatory advantages for conducting operations such as flying beyond a visual line of sight (BVLOS)
From data acquisition to battery changes and transition times, fixed-wing drones require less flights.
Below, the results of a recent test comparing mapping timings on a 100 ha (247 A) mission showed that an eBee X with S.O.D.A. 3D sensor was almost 2X quicker than a quadcopter due to its efficiency.
And these time savings are scalable — the larger the area, the greater the difference!
For business managers, the effect of reduced time on site is appealing (especially if an external drone operator is being employed.)
When applying the average labor costs listed below to a 300 ha (741 A) mission, it’s easy to see that the fixed-wing platform has the potential to net $249-$385 in savings to the operation. And this is just a single team!
Time savings means more mapping projects can be completed over a specific period. Flying a fixed-wing drone in place of a slower quadcopter was found to boost a team’s potential capacity by several projects per week to more than double when applied to larger projects.
Due to lightweight, impact-resistant Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) material, plus the smart design of the eBee (no hard front plastic parts, rear-facing motor) as well as pre-programmed emergency actions within eMotion, operators have a robust, safe drone for conducting mapping missions and a platform well-suited for advanced drone operations such as Operations Over People (OOP) and BVLOS flights – affording you a significant advantage over heavier platforms.
eBee are the only drones in the market to be approved for OOP in the USA and Canada. Moreover, they are EU C2 certified, obtained a M2 Ground risk Mitigation essential for OOP and BVLOS operations in Europe and are approved for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations in Brazil.
eBee X series drones seamlessly integrate with eMotion, an advanced, scalable, and intuitive flight planning software. When using active RTK, the eBee can directly geotag collected images with high accuracy during flight to provide you with a time-saving advantage in post-processing.
All eBee drones feature a modular design that enables you to quickly swap sensor payloads, conduct repairs, and interval servicing with ease. This feature, along with wide accessibility to parts, significantly reduces downtime in comparison to many VTOL platforms.
With up to 3X longer flight time, the fixed-wing eBee X can map up to 18.7 km/11.6 mi approx. 3X longer corridors than a typical quadcopter’s coverage of 9 km (5.6 mi) per battery by comparison. This difference could potentially enable a commercial operator to engage in a wider range of corridor projects or to map larger corridors up to 3X more efficiently.
The lighter your equipment, the easier it is to transport to your site. Weighing just 4.6 kg (10 lbs) empty and 10 kg / (22 lbs) when fully loaded with an eBee, laptop and accessories, backpack and drone is one of the lightest professional-grade platforms in the industry, allowing you to easily go – wherever the site takes you.