In order for drones to reach their full potential, flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) is a must. But how does this really work in a crowded airspace?
As one thinks about this concept it becomes easy to see how the need for consistent connectivity with a drone in flight is required. Nowadays there are more and more communication service providers (CSPs) around the globe entering the drone market with connectivity solutions. However, before considering their technical implementations, let’s focus on regulation as it is in fact the aviation regulation that leads the way in defining solutions that make it to market.
First, let’s consider the differences across a few regions. In the EU, BVLOS operations and operation above assemblies of people generally require prior authorisation. In Germany specifically, operations without prior authorisation are limited to a flight altitude of 100m above the ground (instead of 120m).1 In the UK, operating an unmanned aircraft BVLOS is not explicitly prohibited or restricted by regulation, however it does require the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to do so.2 Yet in the United States, regulation still prohibits this activity without special permission from the FAA. As of November 2019, 99% of applications for this permission have been denied.3 Also, specifically mentioned in the US regulation is the need for a “pilot in command”, i.e. a pilot to fly the remote drone and be able to intervene at any time if there is a need to do so. The promise of autonomous flight, drones flying fully independently from a ground control station and information thereof, i.e. managing themselves and navigating the airspace in the same capacity as autonomous vehicles are expected to do is still far away. Hence, rather than “autonomous flight”, today`s reality is automated flight, with drones following a predefined flight path and a pilot involved in ensuring the safe navigation of an increasing crowded airspace. In order to safely perform those operations a reliable connectivity is required.
As mentioned above, the global telecommunications players are entering into this market to provide communication solutions for drone operations. These are based on 4G and in some cases already 5G connectivity. The bandwidth provided by today’s mobile infrastructure is sufficient for communication and control of the drone while additional value added services such as video streaming will greatly benefit from 5G. In addition to telecommunications providers, satellite providers are also entering this market. However, as these networks have not been specifically designed for airborne operations, key questions around availability, continuity, latency and integrity exist.
AirborneRF answers these questions and helps connectivity providers and drone operators transition to BVLOS in a safe and efficient manner. The connectivity platform provides the required information that enables BVLOS drone operations within the mobile network infrastructure at scale. The platform is a cloud-native microservices based solution to allow for ease of the required scalability as the number of users grows. AirborneRF allows the automated, safe, secure and real time data exchange concerning the necessary connectivity information for flight planning, clearing and operation between mobile networks on one hand, and the UTM and ATM players on the aviation side. The integration of UTM and ATM specifically enables a safer integration of unmanned vehicles into manned airspace. Communication service providers have the opportunity to open new revenue opportunities with the upcoming technological revolution that BVLOS drone operations will trigger. AirborneRF enables this transition for CSPs into the world of aviation.
By leveraging existing mobile infrastructure, BVLOS can become a reality. Enterprise customers will have more options to integrate drone solutions to their business models and UAV management system providers can access ground risk data, redundant UAV geo-position information and connectivity data. AirborneRF is ready to take the drone industry to its next level of growth, making BVLOS flights at scale a reality.