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Elsight comms helps Airobotics win drone flying approval
Thu, 7th Sep 2023

US aviation authorities have paved the way for wider commercial drone use in urban areas, granting commercial drone company Airobotics, which uses a communication system made by ASX-listed Elsight, certification to fly its drones in US cities without requiring case-by-case approvals.

Data capture drones, such as those using Airobotics' system, can be used for law enforcement and deployed to assess accidents or public unrest incidents to determine the level of response required by city authorities. They can also examine remote infrastructure such as powerlines, mining sites, water and gas pipelines and natural disasters such as fires and floods without requiring human crews.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Las Vegas on Thursday morning (Australian time) announced it had granted a Type Certificate to the Airobotics Optimus-1 EX system, which will enable drones using its system to fly over people and infrastructure without the need for case-by-case waivers.

Airobotics' parent company, Ondas, plans to use drones to enhance public safety, enable drones to act as first responders to critical incidents and offer its system for various other commercial and industrial uses in US urban areas.

The Optimus-1 EX system is the first autonomous security and data capture drone to be granted a Type Certificate, the highest airworthiness certification echelon.

Airobotics uses Elsight's Halo drone connectivity system, which guarantees continuous connectivity between a flight base and the drone to ensure it can be operated safely beyond the visual line of sight.

The issue of losing connection, especially with drones operating beyond the visual line of sight or over population centres, is a critical problem for commercial drone operators and poses a significant hurdle for gaining regulatory approval.

Elsight chief executive officer, Yoav Amitai, says the US FAA certification of Airobotics' drones was an endorsement of Elight's Halo system, which delivers absolute connection confidence to drone operators even in areas of little reception. “The announcement is a potential game changer for the drone industry. This is a major step forward for Airobotics in particular and for the drone industry in general."

“Completing the long-complicated process to achieve first type certification for non-air carrier drone by the FAA shows that the regulators are coming around to the position that drones are part of the future.”

“We are proud that Airobotics' has chosen the Elsight Halo as their connectivity solution. Their completion of the Type Certification with the Halo onboard is a vote of confidence in Elsight and in the Halo, and we expect many more to come,'' he adds. “US FAA approval would be watched closely by regulators in other countries and could pave the way for wider drone use in urban areas in other countries if other regulators follow the US FAA lead.”

The US FAA decision would provide permanent approvals and allow Airobotics' drone systems to be scaled up for drone operations in urban areas without requiring case-by-case approvals. This would streamline drone deployments and will enable them to be used for many more activities.

The US FAA certification verifies the Airobotics system's design compliance with airworthiness and noise standards, ensuring safe operation within the National Airspace System.

FAA Associate Administrator David Boulter announced the decision to grant the Type Certificate to Airobotics during his keynote address at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Elsight management was in attendance.

To operate in the country, all commercial aircraft require a blanket approval known as a Type Certificate granted by their national aviation authorities.

The first-of-its-kind US certification was achieved after four years of intensive engineering and operational review processes by the FAA.

The Optimus System is already operating regularly in urban environments in the United Arab Emirates.

“After a long, profound process done with the FAA and many of our partners, we are thrilled to announce that our Optimus drone has met all of the specific airworthiness and noise standards set by the FAA,’’ adds Meir Kliner, the chief executive officer of Airobotics.

“Elsight one of our long-term technological partners that provides us with the essential connection confidence required to achieve such major milestones played a great role as a close partner who supports our needs and requirements.”

“Elsight Halo is the only communication solution that provides the reliability we need to perform safe and secure Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.''

“Since the FAA began offering certification for Uncrewed Aerial Systems in 2019, many drone companies have initiated the approval process. But Airobotics, focused on data capturing in urban environments, is the first to achieve it. The Optimus System ranks among the most mature automated drone platforms in the market in terms of proven reliability, safety, and value. Ondas believes the TC presents a game-changing solution for local governments and commercial entities seeking to streamline aerial data capture in American cities.”