February 24, 2022
Iris Automation, on behalf of the City of Reno, Nevada, and the Reno Fire Department, has announced it received Federal Aviation Administration (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 equipment.
The waiver will help the city and Iris achieve autonomous flight, first by 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.
Each year, the Reno Fire Department conducts approximately 41 Water Entry Team (WET) rescues, with 85% of them occurring on the Truckee River. About 10% of these calls occur in the dark, requiring many first responders to enter the water, and an average response mission lasting about an hour with between 12 to 20 first responders. Water exposure, especially in moving water incidents, is extremely dangerous for victims and first responders.
Using unmanned aerial systems in a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capacity will have an impact on saving lives and reducing the resources needed for these operations, putting fewer fire department personnel at risk, Iris Automation said. The goal will continue the efforts of Reno 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,” said Dave Cochran, fire chief for the RFD. “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 agency in establishing safety and performance standards for BVLOS operation by working with several industry and public stakeholders. The program gives real-world operational learning in the field to help inform regulatory recommendations. Iris Automation and Reno have collaborated since 2019, first in the IPP and nwo in BEYOND, to test the use of autonomous drones during river rescue missions.
“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 midair collisions and enable the integration of uncrewed aircraft into our national airspace,” said Jon Damush, CEO of Iris Automation. “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 midair collision risk at a size, weight, and price point that enables our industry.”
The 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 such as Casia X, combined with designed concepts of operation, will provide a cost-effective and scalable solution to enable high levels of safety, the company said.
For more details on the Iris Automation technology, visit its website here.