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Vigilant Aerospace Systems participated with Oklahoma State University (OSU) today in the first beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone flights authorized under a new, unique FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) allowing flights in a 13-mile long corridor in central Oklahoma.

The COA, released by the FAA on Dec. 6, 2018, allows the university to waive rules requiring drone operators to keep their aircraft continuously in line-of-sight. The authorization is one of a very few such certificates in the United States and is only the second for a university. There are currently only 29 similar commercial BVLOS authorizations.

The COA allows the university and partners like Vigilant Aerospace to pioneer new unmanned flight and safety systems that enable long linear inspection operations and remote surveying flights. These linear flights are required for pipeline, utility, road and bridge inspections and for monitoring remote assets like oil and gas wells and farm and ranch operations.

Using its FlightHorizon GCS system, Vigilant Aerospace provided detect-and-avoid and airspace situational awareness services for the first 3-mile flight under the new COA. Originating from the Oklahoma State University Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station near Stillwater, Oklahoma, the flight was completed by OSU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) using a fixed-wing Anaconda drone aircraft.

“This new authorization offers us an opportunity to develop flight processes for infrastructure inspections and to develop solid, research-based solutions for control and safety during these flights. This COA is an important milestone and we will be conducting crucial research and development work with our commercial partners to accelerate the integration of drones into the US national airspace for these kinds of flights,” said USRI Director and OSU Professor Jamey Jacob.


*** Watch our 2 min. 20 sec. video on the flight here ***

Vigilant Aerospace used FlightHorizon to track the aircraft during its 3-mile outbound and 3-mile return flight while simultaneously tracking 17 manned aircraft for display and alerting in real-time to the pilot-in-command over the duration of the 13-minute flight.

“We were extremely pleased with the performance of the FlightHorizon system in this first flight under the new COA and look forward to demonstrating the ability of unmanned aircraft to be safely flown over these much longer distances,” said Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO of Vigilant Aerospace.

“We are excited to be involved in research and testing that will help to evolve the current regulations and enable whole new uses for drones. Establishing this process will allow us to really unlock the economic value of drones to perform autonomous industrial missions,” said Epperson.

Flights were controlled from a ground control station linked to an on-board autopilot and visual observers followed the aircraft in a motor vehicle.

The flight is the first in a series of tests and demonstrations planned by Vigilant Aerospace with the USRI to develop new concepts of operation utilizing FlightHorizon.

Ultimately, Vigilant Aerospace plans to integrate new sensors into the flights, like micro-radar, and to use its new FlightHorizon PILOT automatic detect-and-avoid (ADAA) system on-board the aircraft to demonstrate autonomous avoidance, with pilot supervision.

Vigilant Aerospace’s FlightHorizon detect-and-avoid and airspace situational awareness products are based on an exclusively licensed NASA patent and prototype and there have been multiple NASA papers published about the system.

The new flight test campaign under the OSU COA comes in the midst of Vigilant Aerospace’s ongoing participation in the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program providing airspace safety and detect-and-avoid services for teams in North Dakota and Alaska, two of only ten authorized IPP teams in the United States. The FAA’s IPP is designed to help collect data and experience performing advanced drone operations, including BVLOS flights, flights over people and package delivery flights. The company recently participated in the first IPP flights-over-people at the FargoDome in North Dakota with CNN and Botlink.

Read more in the announcement from Oklahoma State University: “OSU-USRI performs first-of-its-kind BVLOS flights”

About the Unmanned Systems Research Institute

The Unmanned Systems Research Institute at Oklahoma State University is dedicated to accelerating innovation across a spectrum of activities that span discovery, design and delivery of new unmanned systems technology. The Institute is designed to be a transformational integrative forces across OSU, bringing together interdisciplinary efforts to advance unmanned systems research and education. To learn more, visit the USRI website.


OSU’s Anaconda unmanned aircraft

OSU USRI staff preparing for flight operations.

The computer running FlightHorizon and the flight team at the ground control station.

FlightHorizon displaying the ownship, waypoints, and geofenced flight area designated in the COA.

Flight control station with FlightHorizon monitoring the airspace.

The Anaconda UAS flying away from the OSU Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station beyond visual line-of-sight of the remote pilot.

The OSU UAS team with Vigilant Aerospace Systems after the flights.

About Vigilant Aerospace Systems

Vigilant Aerospace is the leading developer of detect-and-avoid and airspace management software for uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS or drones). The company’s product, FlightHorizon, is based on two NASA patents and uses data from multiple sources to display a real-time picture of the air traffic around a UAS and to provide automatic avoidance maneuvers to prevent collisions. The software is designed to meet industry technical standards, to provide automatic safety and to allow UAS to safely fly beyond the sight of the pilot. The software has won multiple industry awards and the company has had contracts and users at NASA, the FAA, the U.S. Department of Defense and with a variety of drone development programs. Visit our website at

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