Iris Automation BVLOS Approval for City of Reno Fire Department

Iris Automation BVLOS approvalIris Automation Granted FAA Approval to Fly BVLOS for City of Reno Fire Department

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

On behalf of the City of Reno and the Reno Fire Department (RFD), Iris Automation has been granted approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly a small drone autonomously beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS), without the aid of any observers or additional ground-based detection equipment. Testing will begin over unpopulated areas before moving to urban areas. The BVLOS waiver covers a rural, unpopulated area south of Reno and was submitted by Iris Automation for the use of its Casia X detect and avoid solution.

“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,” said Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. “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.”

The RFD conducts roughly 41 Water Entry Team (WET) rescues a year, 85% of which take place on the Truckee River. Nearly 10% of these rescues are carried out in the dark, with many requiring first responders to enter the water, which can be incredibly dangerous. On average, missions last around an hour and involve roughly 12-20 first responders.

Iris Automation BVLOS approvalMaking use of UAS in a BVLOS capacity will have a major impact on life-saving efforts while reducing resource requirements and putting fewer personnel in danger, continuing the efforts established by Reno 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,” said Reno Fire Chief Dave Cochran. “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.”

The City of Reno is a participant in the FAA BEYOND program, designed to support the FAA in setting safety and performance standards for BVLOS operation by working with a wide range of industry and public stakeholders. Reno has been working with Iris Automation 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.

“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,” said Iris Automation CEO Jon Damush. “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.”

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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.