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American Robotics receives new waiver and exemption from FAA

Approvals enable unlimited commercial operations beyond the pilot’s line of sight

American Robotics' Scout System drone prepares for landing during an FAA test scenario (Photo: American Robotics)

Drones could soon be coming to your fleet.

Drone systems operator American Robotics, a subsidiary of Ondas Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: ONDS), on Wednesday announced that it received a new exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration that will allow it to operate commercial drone support services, like maintenance and inspections, with no limitations on use.

The company was also granted a Part 107 waiver for expanded operations beyond the pilot’s range of sight. With the FAA’s blessing, its drones can now fly autonomously over a range of up to 10 miles.

In January 2021, American Robotics became the first drone company to receive FAA approval to operate drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). Since then, the FAA has granted the drone operator several exemptions and waivers. This most recent exemption is the firm’s fourth milestone approval.

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Read: Ondas Holdings acquires drone-operator American Robotics

“I am proud of the years of dedication and hard work that our team, partners and regulators have put forth,” said Reese Mozer, co-founder and CEO of American Robotics. “Wide-scale adoption of autonomous drone technology represents a generational shift in how critical industries monitor, map and inspect assets, unlocking new efficiencies, increasing safety and reducing environmental impact.”

The FAA exemption modifies the terms of a previous exemption, which limited American Robotics’ operations to “research and development, crew training and market surveys.” That’s curbed the ambitions the company has for its Scout System solution, which includes a fully autonomous fleet of drones, weatherproof charging stations and fleet management software.

Until now, that is. With this new exemption, the FAA has lifted any limitations on commercial uses. But equally important is the FAA’s waiver, which will open up opportunities for new applications and use cases.

For example, with a 10-mile flight range, customers can now use the Scout System to inspect large industrial sites and linear assets like railways. They’ll even be able to customize the range of the drone based on the unique geography of each site.

Watch: Where is the future of drone infrastructure headed?

“American Robotics believes that autonomy, safety and government approval are the bedrocks of a scalable commercial drone business, and we continue to execute on this mission with additional approvals from the FAA,” said Mozer. “This achievement is not only a milestone for our company and our customers, but it’s also a signal that the commercial drone industry is progressing in the United States.”

The experts agree with Mozer. MarketsandMarkets estimates that the market for drone services will surge over the next half-decade, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 24% through 2026. That’s faster than the firm’s prediction for the red-hot EV industry, which it expects to grow at a CAGR of 21.7% through 2030.

Other analysts put the figure even higher. Emergen Research, for example, forecasts a CAGR of 46.8% for the drone services market, nearly double what MarketsandMarkets anticipates.

Currently, adoption remains low — few businesses utilize drone services because of the sweeping regulations they face. But the FAA recently granted approvals to American Robotics, Zipline, Flytrex and several others. It also received a set of recommendations from drone industry leaders, advising it to extend its BVLOS rules. That could signal that the industry is gearing up for takeoff.

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Jack Daleo

Jack Daleo is a staff writer for Flying Magazine covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel — and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.