uAvionix’ ping200X ADS-B transponder and truFYX GPS receiver have both been successfully integrated and flown by launch customer Airbus aboard the Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), as part of the unmanned aircraft’s flight test campaign in Arizona.
Zephyr is a solar-electric, stratospheric unmanned platform that flies above weather and other forms of air traffic, providing a capability that is complementary to that of satellites. The 25m-wingspan aircraft is powered by solar energy, with onboard batteries charging during daylight and providing sufficient capacity to power overnight flight. Zephyr currently holds the world record for the longest flight duration of an unmanned aircraft without refuelling, at 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes.
Airbus’ Zephyr team needed a certifiable transponder, ADS-B, and GPS solution which not only meets global airspace requirements as it ascends and descends through Class A airspace, but also features a minimal size, weight, and power (SWaP) footprint consistent with what a long-endurance solar-powered aircraft can support.
The FAA recently published its Upper Class E Traffic Management (ETM) Concept of Operations (CONOPS). Operations in upper Class E airspace have historically been limited due to the challenges faced by conventional fixed-wing aircraft in reduced atmospheric density. However, recent advances in power and propulsion technology, aircraft structures, flight automation, and aerodynamics have allowed more aircraft such as Zephyr to successfully operate in this environment. The utilization of traditional aviation technologies such as ADS-B and Mode S transponders are a key component of this CONOPS, providing interoperability with existing Air Traffic Control (ATC) infrastructure and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) avionics.
Paul Beard of uAvionix commented: “Every gram and milliwatt has to earn its way onto the platform for customers like Zephyr. The combined weight of the ping200X transponder and truFYX GPS is only around 70 grams and consumes less than 2 Watts of power while providing high power (54dBm), high integrity transmissions of ADS-B and transponder mode data to Air Traffic Control (ATC) and nearby, suitably equipped aircraft.”