Honeywell has launched a new miniature lightweight satellite communications (SATCOM) system for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that it claims is the smallest in the world. Weighing just one kilogram (2.2 pounds), the new system is 90% lighter than the company’s previous smallest connectivity system.
SATCOM is a broad group of connectivity technologies that allow UAVs to communicate with each other and with operators or control stations on the ground, as well as providing aircraft tracking. The new Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system is powered by Inmarsat’s global satellite communications network and provides drones with global connectivity and real-time video streaming.
Seamless connectivity is essential for safe and efficient air traffic management that enables beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations. BVLOS allows unmanned aircraft to be operated remotely beyond the pilot’s field of view, and opens up a wide variety of applications, including UAV-based inspections, where it is estimated to double or triple daily inspection capacity. The combination of the Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system and Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity can keep vehicles connected even in remote areas or over water where other ground-based communications systems, such as 4G, are not available.
Due to large size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements, SATCOM systems have traditionally only been a viable option for larger UAVs. Honeywell’s new Small UAV SATCOM system features a flexible and customizable design that allows it to be installed in different locations on the vehicle, making it suited to a wider range of drone platforms while ensuring flight safety and avoiding unnecessary weight.
Amanda King, vice president and general manager of Aerospace Connected Secure Solutions, Honeywell Connected Enterprise, commented: “Transportation as we know it is changing rapidly, and the need for connectivity is only becoming more important. As platforms evolve and new vehicles start operating both on land and in the air, it’s critical that satellite communications technology evolves alongside them. Honeywell’s small UAV SATCOM system is a game-changer for these smaller unmanned aircraft that previously couldn’t be equipped with satellite communications. Now, they’ve got access to everything we’ve come to expect from the large-aircraft experience — just in a smaller package.”