As the first drone operator in the Netherlands, software company Falcker may start performing drone flights outside the drone pilot’s view with Percepto’s drone-in-a-box system. This clears the way for automated inspections of industrial facilities and security applications. The first flights with the system are scheduled for April. Expansion to Germany and Belgium is planned in the near future.
Beyond visual line of sight
Percepto’s Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring drone box system consists of a number of components. The basis is formed by a weatherproof drone equipped with a high-resolution RGB camera and a FLIR thermal imaging camera. The drone takes off independently from a docking station, then flies routine inspection missions.
The camera images from the drone are processed directly into a cloud application developed by Falcker. The drone can also perform ad hoc flights in case of emergencies, such as a fire or security breach. At the end of each flight, the drone returns to the box independently, to be charged for another flight.
The essence of the system is that there is no need for a drone pilot to be on site to control the drone. Instead, an operator remotely watches from the control room. This means that the drone flies outside the operator’s line of sight, also referred to as BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight).
Legislation and regulations impose very strict requirements on such drone flights. After years of intensive consultation with the Dutch Environment and Transport Inspectorate, Falcker finally received the green light this week to deploy the system.
Next step: international roll-out
Duco Boer (CIO Falcker) is delighted with the issuance of the operational authorization. “We are the first operator in the Netherlands who is allowed to deploy this system in practice at our customers. The preconditions are that the drone may only be used above controlled territory – read: own territory – and in controlled airspace or a-typical airspace. That clears the way for the inspection applications we envision.”
Next week, a team from Percepto in Israel will travel to Rotterdam to prepare the system for use. In addition, Falcker will complete an intensive training program next week, during which a number of pilots and software specialists will be certified to install, operate and perform maintenance on the system at customers’ premises.
Falcker intends to move quickly towards commissioning and international rollout of the system. “The first flights with the system are scheduled for April, at a tank terminal,” he says. As a next step in the BVLOS process, we want to start applying for BVLOS permits in a number of surrounding countries, starting with Germany and Belgium,” Boer said.