On July 7th, 2023, it was a frosty morning to set up for a special flight test at the Tāwhaki Aerospace Research Centre at Kaitorete, 50 minutes out of Christchurch. This was not just any flight test but the culmination of months of research and development that required meticulous planning. It was Kea Aerospace’s first flight that is Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS), the holy grail of UAV operations. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved the operation in an appropriate location for the flight; not only was Kaitorete remote, but the airspace above was designated as Restricted Airspace, providing separation from manned aircraft.
The Kea-R6 took to the sky and proceeded to fly until out of sight and beyond, returning some 12 minutes later. It was a short but significant flight for the Kea Aerospace team. Only a few UAV operators in New Zealand have conducted BVLOS operations, so Kea Aerospace is proud to join this exclusive club, and we’re now planning longer duration BVLOS flights, including to the stratosphere.