Longest 5G-Enabled BVLOS Drone Flight Completed

T-Mobile helped Valmont capture mission-critical data in an industry-first 77-mile BVLOS drone inspection operation By Caroline Rees / 07 Jun 2023
Longest 5G-Enabled BVLOS Drone Flight Completed
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Valmont Industries and T-Mobile have completed an industry-first long-distance BVLOS drone inspection flight enabled by 5G.

According to the companies, traditional methods for infrastructure monitoring often require extensive manpower, manned aircraft operations or ground-based inspections, which involve significant safety risks, more time and more money.

As one of the first companies in the US to receive a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waiver for BVLOS drone operations, Valmont is ahead of the game.

In under three hours, Valmont accomplished a non-stop 77-mile drone mission from Childress to Aspermont, Texas inspecting vital infrastructure like power lines, railroads, bridges and more. 

The flight used a Harris Aerial H6E drone equipped with a T-Mobile 5G-connected Sony A7RM5 camera. Significantly faster and more fuel efficient, this task was three times faster than conventional methods, while using less than two gallons of fuel.

Mission highlights include:

  • Valmont drone inspection teams used less than one-fourth gallon of fuel per hour.
  • Flight pushes average distance of UAS inspections from less than 20 miles per day to more than 60.
  • Even though the route was very rural, T-Mobile 5G provided live data transfer throughout the three-hour flight.
  • The Sony A7RM5 combined with the ability to fly closely to utility lines, provided high-resolution details for critical infrastructure inspection.
  • The flight proves that drones are a viable, safe, and efficient alternative to helicopters for infrastructure.
  • Harris Aerial’s drone and Valmont’s proprietary payload are fully National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliant.

“Range has been a hurdle in the drone inspection space, until now,” said Jake Lahmann, UAS Manager at Valmont Industries Inc. “To be able to get this kind of range in a single drone flight is really going to revolutionize the way the industry approaches infrastructure inspections.”

“5G was built to make life easier,” added Ulf Ewaldsson, President of Technology at T-Mobile. “Whether it’s connecting a person on their smartphone or improving long-range drone infrastructure inspections, there is no doubt that the reach and speed of T-Mobile 5G is making it possible for entire industries to revolutionize the way they work.”

With 5G, Valmont’s drone inspection service is another example of 5G-enabled technologies that can be used to quickly respond to or prevent an emergency. By preemptively monitoring infrastructure sites with greater accuracy, Valmont can help prevent malfunctions and breakdowns before they have a chance to have a widespread impact.

Working closely with the FAA on BVLOS drone operation policies, Valmont plans to offer drone-in-a-box (DiaB) services nationwide in 2024. This enables anyone needing aerial inspection services the ability to order a drone, unbox it and watch it run its inspection while a Valmont pilot flies it remotely from virtually anywhere in the US.

Find suppliers & manufacturers of BVLOS communications & solutions for unmanned inspection >>

Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact