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Firsts for UK UAS Operations with SkyLift Demonstration Flights

Successful SkyLift demonstration flights using uAvionix’s SkyLine cloud-based command and control system, communicating over C-Band and LTE, deliver a first for UK drone operations By Sarah Simpson / 29 Jun 2023
Firsts for UK UAS Operations with SkyLift Demonstration Flights
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BT Group and SkyLift have successfully conducted demonstration flights using uAvionix’s SkyLine cloud-based command and control (C2) system communicating over C-Band and LTE.

The flights achieved two UK firsts for UAS operations:

  • Operational Command and Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) C2 systems using C-Band and LTE via BT’s Drone SIM
  • The transmission of ADS-B OUT on 978 MHz for detect and avoid (DAA) operations

Operators now have proven access to assured CNPC C2 communications for UAS and Electronic Conspicuity (EC) technology that meets the new UK CAA proposed Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAS EC standard for safe operation of BVLOS missions in an integrated airspace.

“Today’s successful operations at Bentwaters Park represent a significant milestone necessary for scaling BVLOS operations to meet desired business objectives,” said Toby Moores, SkyLift CEO.

Use of SkyLine with BT’s Drone SIM and aviation C-Band for Command and Control coupled with ADS-B OUT for Electronic Conspicuity and the SkyFleet Ground Control System provided our operators continuous, assured control of the aircraft and unparalleled situational awareness throughout all the flights. The technology was easily integrated into our aircraft and ground control system and deployed through a process that we can quickly replicate for businesses seeking to achieve scalable BVLOS operations.”

The SkyLift team operated its fixed-wing UAS from Bentwaters Park, an ex-Royal Air Force/USAF airfield two hours from London utilizing their SkyFleet Ground Control System. Nearby Adastral Park, home of BT Group’s innovation labs, served as the location for a fixed, remote ground radio station (GRS) approximately 12 kilometers southwest. There are multiple BT LTE towers in the area and two mobile GRS with LTE backhaul connectivity were also deployed.

“At Etc., the incubation team within BT Group’s Digital unit, we are keenly focused on the UK becoming a leader for commercial drone operations. Achieving these two firsts in one afternoon is significant and demonstrates how quickly we can integrate and deploy our technology for BVLOS missions,” said Ed Hunter, Senior Product Manager – Drones at Etc. “Collaborating with SkyLift and uAvionix brought together two cloud-based systems powered by EE’s advanced LTE connectivity and purpose-built Drone SIM, which is currently being trialed across the UK to deliver ultra reliable communications that can be scaled across many industries, from drone-enabled medical deliveries to power line inspections and search and rescue.”

Two flights were conducted to independently verify the BT Drone SIM connection and the uAvionix aviation C-Band data links. The third and final flight demonstrated the optimized use of both the BT Drone SIM and aviation C-Band datalinks for fully operational CNPC C2.

Successful link management and make-before-break connections between the two datalinks were achieved using the uAvionix SkyLine UAS BVLOS cloud-based service and hardware including a SkyStation5060POE GRS, two SkyStation5060LTE mobile GRS, a muLTElink5060 airborne radio system with the BT Drone SIM, and a uAvionix truFYX GPS installed on the aircraft. In concert, the flight also demonstrated the use of ADS-B OUT transmission from the aircraft on 978 MHz for Electronic Conspicuity. The signal was provided by a uAvionix microUAT device.

Callum Holland, Transformation Lead for Future Safety & Innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said, “The CAA is committed to enabling the adoption of new technologies and standards to facilitate the wider integration of RPAS into UK airspace. We’re proud to have supported the UK’s first RPAS integration of ADS-B Out, operating on 978MHz, as well as a Command Link operating simultaneously over 4G LTE and in the C-Band protected aviation spectrum. This demonstration represents both our commitment to delivering the Electronic Conspicuity vision, as outlined within the Airspace Modernisation Strategy, and facilitating the adoption of high assurance datalinks for RPAS command and control.”

BT Group and uAvionix are leaders in developing and implementing communications networks for command, navigation, and surveillance of UAS in the UK. Their combined success at Bentwaters Park enables further scaling of infrastructure across the country for an increasing number of operators.

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Posted by Sarah Simpson Specialising in digital copy Sarah is an experienced copywriter and researcher. Working with Unmanned Systems Technology Sarah has developed a passion for sourcing unique digital content and a talent for writing about the latest technical innovations in the unmanned sector. Connect & Contact
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