VLOS operations routinely mean operations where the remote pilot mus have direct visual contact with the RPA and also sufficient vision of the surrounding airspace to detect potential conflicts and also to take appropriate avoidance action.  Different countries have different regulations but typically the RPA must be in easily seen visual range (commonly up to but not further than 500m from the remote pilot) and there should be a horizon of not less that 5km in all directions in order to detect a potential conflict.  Additional, most regulators assign a maximum altitude for VLOS operations, which is below the altitude permitted for regular manned aviation.

’Seeing the RPA’ alone is not enough.  If the RPA has an autopilot, then the remote pilot need only see the RPA’s position and direction.  If, on the other hand, the remote pilot is controlling the RPA’s flight directly using remote control, then the remote pilot also has to see the attutude of the RPA in addition to the position and direction.  RPA sizes also differ markedly, as might their colour and any on board lights, and lighting conditions and aerial visibility vary too..  This means that there is no single value for many of the distances etc and that the reqwuirements for safe flight will vary in each case.

Although VLOS operations may seem a little ‘pedestrian’ in the vast context of aerospace and aviation, a huge range of useful and economically attractive operations exist.  It can be argued that VLOS operations conducted in accordance with regulations, may represent the least risky RPAS activity.

For UK and other regulatory definitions and requirements for VLOS operations, see the Regulation section of this website.

Further Reading

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