Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Technology Trials

May 29, 2019 Trent Fulcher

BVLOS UAV flights could unlock new, innovative applications for UAVs such as search and rescue operations, long distance infrastructure inspections, and new methods of transport such as rapid deliveries using UAVs and also flying taxis.

AirShare , in conjunction with X-Craft as the UAV operator,  recently led field trials of technologies at Bethells Beach which could support BVLOS operations. The findings of these trials will be used to develop and promote contemporary processes for safely managing UAV flights that cannot be directly observed by the operator.

Safe BVLOS UAV operations require the risk to other airspace users, as well as people and property on the ground to be reduced to As Low As Reasonably Practicable (“ALARP”).

Being able to provide mutual position information between manned aircraft, UAVs and other stakeholders, as well as maintaining reliable communications throughout the UAV flight are all important considerations.

Traditional UAV command and control methods use unlicensed RF frequencies that have a limited range and therefore are not suitable for BVLOS operations. Alternatives include private radio networks, satellite communications and cellular networks.

Each solution has the potential to provide communications over long distances, however the LTE standard within a cellular system is relatively ubiquitous, low cost, high bandwidth and low latency. By using an LTE connection to command and control UAVs, there is the opportunity to provide a communications link that is fit for purpose for such operations.

By developing the ability for UAV positions to be visible to other airspace users using technology solutions, also known as “electronic conspicuity”, the quantity and quality of information available promotes greater situational awareness and ensures that other traffic can detect and avoid each other. The trials included tests of both low powered ADS-B devices and LTE network connected UAVs to provide real-time positional information.

Electronic conspicuity and long-distance command and control are two important building blocks necessary to support a future where UAV operations can fly BVLOS in a safe and sustainable way. AirShare, MOT, MBIE and CAA all believe that there is a significant opportunity for New Zealand to take leadership position internationally within the industry.

The BVLOS technology trials undertaken by AirShare demonstrated the potential benefits that a number of technologies have to support future BVLOS operations for UAVs. Such operations promise to unlock many new applications of UAVs which have not been possible up until now.

AirShare would like to acknowledge the support of our trial partners: X-Craft, ROCOS, Spark, CAA, Kongsberg Geospatial Ltd and Airways who provided the operations, guidance, platforms and support infrastructure to deliver a successful trial outcome.

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