The drone and AI company Skyqraft is the first in Sweden to acquire the BVLOS license (Beyond the Visual Line of Sight) for autonomous aircraft-like drones, meaning that Skyqraft can now operate unmanned drones beyond their line of sight. This type of license is called the Transport Agency for Category 5C and it is needed to fly autonomous drones in Sweden. A few companies have already received the license for multi-rotor drones, but no one has previously been granted the license for autonomous aircraft-like drones, known as fixed-wing drones – until now.
The three founders behind Skyqraft met at the end of last year when they were admitted to Antler’s startup program in Sweden. Now they work together to help the country’s electricity grid companies to inspect their power grids. Not only will Skyqraft inspect them, they are also working on building a world class risk assessment system using machine learning for the power grid owners to automatically detect any threats to their power grid.
Up until now, Swedish electricity grid companies spend more than SEK 200 million on various kinds of inspections every year. The inspections are performed once a year by a manned helicopter, and by ground staff whenever needed, but this kind of work is not without risks. In 2017, a helicopter pilot and a passenger were seriously injured during an inspection of power lines, but with autonomous drones, the risk of injury is reduced.
“Autonomous aircraft-like drones are a natural future, and by using them, we speed up the industry’s transition. Several network companies are now ready to try our service to reduce costs and make inspection work safer,” says David Almroth, CEO of Skyqraft.
Flying airplane-like drones requires a great deal of theoretical knowledge of aviation as well as practical knowledge of how to send out autonomous aircraft on a mission and monitor them safely. The license covers both theoretical knowledge, practical knowledge, risk awareness and an approval of the technical platform, the drone itself.
“After 200 hours of preparation and flights, it feels great to be the first in Sweden with this type of license. It shows that Sweden is ready to take the step from expensive and gas-hungry helicopters to modern aircraft-like drones equipped with artificial intelligence,” says Umar Chughtai, CTO at Skyqraft.