State Farm Obtains First National Drone BVLOS Waiver

 - January 8, 2019, 9:03 AM
State Farm Insurance has been granted a waiver to conduct operations over people and beyond the pilot's visual line of sight, an approval that builds on previous limited-duration waivers.

Insurer State Farm has been granted the first FAA national UAS waiver to conduct operations over people (OOP) or beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS). The waiver runs through November 2022. Previously the company had been granted limited-duration waivers in geographic-specific areas in the aftermath of hurricanes. The insurer uses UAS to assess property damage in areas where access can be limited due to water, debris, and damage to infrastructure.

For nearly two years, State Farm has been working with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech on drone safety case research. In May 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia was selected as one of 10 teams to participate in the FAA Integration Pilot Program (IPP). As a member of the Virginia IPP team, the insurer has worked with MAAP to assess a wide range of potential risks and strategies for reducing them.

Test flights used the senseFly eBee Classic fixed-wing drone for longer distance damage-assessment missions. State Farm used the data from these flights to conduct OOP and BVLOS flights in states affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael last year. Data from those flights was in turn used to obtain the national waiver.