Hawk Aerial drones equipped with the PRENAV navigation system flew in tight formation to create this image in a promotional video. Image credit: PRENAV

Hawk Aerial and PRENAV have been granted the first Section 333 exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the PRENAV precision drone system, which will be used to inspect cell phone towers and other large structures.

Hawk Aerial will provide drone services, while the PRENAV system adds automation technology and navigation.  

Section 333 decrees that the Secretary of Transportation has the authority to determine whether a drone must have an airworthiness certificate to fly.  Companies can apply for exemption by submitting a petition.

“Using drones to inspect structures such as cell towers and wind turbines typically requires an expert pilot because GPS isn’t adequate for close proximity flight,” said Nathan Schuett, CEO of PRENAV. “The PRENAV system is the first drone to be approved by the FAA that will enable these types of missions to be performed autonomously, where the flight is aided by a robot on the ground.”

In order to demonstrate PRENAV’s abilities, the company tested out how their drones could draw shapes in the sky and fly in strict formation. A video of their ‘Hello World’ project was given an award at the Flying Robot International Film Festival, held on Nov. 19 in San Francisco.

“We’re very pleased the FAA amended our 333 Exemption to cover the PRENAV aircraft,” said Kevin Gould, CEO of Hawk Aerial. “The PRENAV system allows us to better serve our customers and makes our operations more precise by employing market-leading automation technology for inspections.”

PRENAV drones can navigate in even complex or GPS-denied environments without human control, making them useful for investigating industrial boilers and other large structures. The flight path must be reviewed by a pilot, who monitors the drone in their line of sight (as per FAA regulations), using a tablet to track the flight. The pilot can also take control and land the drone in the case of an emergency.

The PRENAV precision drone system will be launched in 2016.

Real Time Digital Reporter