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60-Mile-Long Drone Inspection Flight Points to the Future

by Tom Sawyer

December 27, 2018 – Black & Veatch announced in December the successful conclusion of a 60-mile-log, non-stop, proof-of-concept drone-based inspection flight conducted by a remote pilot in a command center miles away in rural Illinois.

The flight was made on Nov. 8 as part of three days of test flights operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) using a hybrid drone with rotors for vertical takeoffs and landings but also with fixed wings and a forward-facing prop for long runs. The route took it from a command and control center at an airport five miles from the area of interest, and then two passes up and down a twisting, 23-mile-long set of electrical transmission lines, and then back to its point of departure.

The UAV used was a gas-powered HQ-90 (since re-branded an FVR-90) from Latitude Engineering. “You can’t really go that far with battery power,” notes Jamare Bates, an FAA-certified remote unmanned aircraft systems pilot who heads UAS operations at Black & Veatch.

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