The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has added two drones by Inspired Flight to a list of small unmanned aircraft cleared to fly in DoD airspace without filing an exemption.
The pre-cleared aircraft under the DIU Blue small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Blue sUAS) 2.0 project are the IF750 and IF1200 by Inspired Flight, the Intense Eye V2 by BlueHalo, the WingtraOne by Wingtra, Spirit by Ascent Aerosystems, the eBee Tac by AgEagle‘s [UAVS] senseFly, and AltaX by Freefly Systems.
DIU said on its website that the drones under Blue sUAS 2.0 “do not require a DoD exception to policy to procure or operate as they have undergone a cyber-security evaluation, an NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] compliance check, and were issued the necessary administrative documentation.”
“Federal government partners can also leverage this onboarding process for their programmatic needs without duplicating efforts,” DIU said.
The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed DoD to ban the buy of drones and related systems from China. The bans are largely aimed at DJI, which is based in China and has the largest share of the commercial market for small drones (Defense Daily, Aug. 21).
In August 2020, DIU began Blue sUAS 1.0 to integrate commercial ground stations for drones used by DoD and other federal agencies. “Blue sUAS 1.0 made minor modifications to the Army’s final five Short Range Reconnaissance candidate air vehicles,” DIU said.
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio said on Sept. 16 that it is to buy an eight-pound WingtraOne Gen II drone for base use.
The base’s 88th Civil Engineer Group/Engineering Division (88th CEG/CEN) said it is to use the Wingtra for “imagery, obstruction, topological, and survey tasks to name a few.”
While many fixed wing VTOL drones could meet such requirements, any commercial drone “must have an exemption to be allowed to fly in DoD airspace,” the 88th CEG/CEN said in a Sept. 16 justification and approval document to justify awarding a sole source contract to Wingtra. “Currently only eight UA [unmanned aircraft] systems have the exemption to fly in DoD airspace. These exemptions have been given through the Blue sUAS program, and within that program, there is only one UAS that meets the needs of the customer–the WingtraOne Gen II.”
The Blue sUAS list of approved drones “represents a trusted resource for a broad range of capabilities, from maintaining base infrastructure to promoting physical security through routine patrol and surveillance,” DIU has said. “Replacing the current restrictive environment around UAS with a permissive structure for review and acquisition will foster the development of individual tactics and expand the DoD use and capabilities of UAS.”