Iris Automation Receives FAA Approval to Fly UAS Without Visual Observers

Iris Automation, on behalf of the City of Reno and the Reno Fire Department (RFD), received the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval to fly a small drone autonomously beyond the pilot’s line of sight, without any visual observers or the use of additional ground-based detection equipment.

This waiver is an important step in achieving autonomous flight, first testing over unpopulated areas before it can move to urban areas. The waiver covers a rural, unpopulated area south of Reno and was submitted by Iris Automation for the use of its advanced detect and avoid solution, Casia X. It provides situational awareness exceeding that of a human pilot. 

“This is an exciting project, working with the BEYOND program and the latest technologies to open the skies both for our community and the broader public,” Reno Mayor, Hillary Schieve, said. “It’s a unique teaming of public and private interests to achieve breakthrough operations for a wide range of cost-effective, public-facing services. Autonomous flying will benefit every member of our community and drive long-term economic benefits including job creation, cost savings, and more efficient services. We intend this to be our first of many waivers as part of this collaboration. We’re proud to be leading the way in this incredible space—and with a local BEYOND participant, too—and excited to see our partners moving to this next step in the process.”

Each year, the RFD conducts approximately 41 Water Entry Team (WET) rescues with 85% of them occurring on the Truckee River. Approximately 10% of these calls occur in the dark with many requiring first responders to enter the water. The average response mission lasts about an hour and includes approximately 12-20 first responders. Water exposure, especially in moving water incidents, is extremely dangerous for victims and first responders.

Using UAS in a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capacity will have a significant, positive impact on saving lives and reducing the resources required for these operations, putting fewer fire department personnel at risk. This goal continues the efforts the City established during the final phases of the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program.

“Getting to BVLOS is a significant milestone for search and rescue missions, as well as for the safety of our employees,” Reno Fire Chief, Dave Cochran, said. “Drones allow us to launch into flight safely at a moment’s notice, with new and more effective approaches to making our downtown river corridor safer while also saving time and money. This accomplishment provides a blueprint for other fire departments, public agencies, and enterprises to utilize drones.”

Reno is a participant in the FAA BEYOND program, designed to assist the FAA in establishing safety and performance standards for BVLOS operation by working with a diverse array of industry and public stakeholders. It provides extensive real-world, operational learning in the field to help inform regulatory recommendations. The City and Iris Automation have collaborated since 2019, first in the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP) and now in the BEYOND program, to test the use of autonomous drones during river rescue missions.

Comments Jon Damush, CEO, Iris Automation, “The BEYOND program is an important example of constructive government and industry cooperation, and a testament to the forward-thinking leadership of the City of Reno. We’re thrilled to work side by side with the FAA and our home City, delivering our technology to enhance the daily lives of our community and beyond. We appreciate the FAA leadership of this program and the many areas it is involved in to advance the industry.

“We have been working with the FAA and our partners for years to develop our technology as a critical safety layer, helping to mitigate the risk of mid-air collisions and enable the integration of uncrewed aircraft into our national airspace. These efforts have led to the development of our 360-degree field of view Casia X on-board system—designed to provide an effective additional layer mitigation against mid-air collision risk at a size, weight, and price point that enables our industry. We expect to see more of these waivers as the industry adopts autonomous flight, and we look forward to leading the way and helping to realize this future vision.”

Casia X uses Iris Automation’s patented detect and avoid technology to detect, alert, and avoid non-cooperative aircraft. For operators to fly autonomously over distances, onboard sensors like Casia X, combined with carefully designed concepts of operation provide a cost-effective and scalable solution, enabling high levels of safety.

About the FAA BEYOND Program
https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/beyond/

About the City of Reno
The City of Reno government’s mission is creating a community that people are proud to call home. In order to achieve that purpose, the Reno City Council has established six Tier 1 priorities and seven Tier 2 priorities. To learn more about the City of Reno, visit Reno.gov or call 775-334-INFO (4636).

About Iris Automation
Iris Automation is a safety avionics technology company pioneering on- and off-board perception systems and aviation policy services that enable customers to build scalable operations for crewed and uncrewed aircraft; unlocking the potential of countless industries. Iris’ Casia system runs either onboard the aircraft or in a ground-based configuration. We work closely with civil aviation authorities globally as they implement regulatory frameworks ensuring BVLOS is conducted safely, partnering on multiple FAA ASSURE and BEYOND UAS Integration Programs and Transport Canada’s BVLOS Technology Demonstration Program. Visit www.irisonboard.com.

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