The Curo HubX* (HubX) drone platform, equipped with ASX-listed Elsight’s connection confidence Halo technology, kept drones in the air during the November 8 Optus outage by using Elsight’s technology to seamlessly switch carriers when the Optus service failed.
Elsight’s Halo system has been integrated into the HubX drone platform to provide a complete redundant multi-carrier connectivity.
Trials of Sphere Drones’ innovative HubX drone platform at a mine in remote NSW were unaffected by the Optus outage when the Halo system seamlessly migrated from Optus to Telstra, and Satellite operator, Starlink.
Elsight chief executive Yoav Amitai said “Sphere Drones’ ability to maintain connectivity with confidence despite the Optus outage, during the trial of its HubX drone platform, proved the resilience of Elsight’s Halo system.”
The Halo system seamlessly aggregates all cellular or satellite connections for continuous connectivity even in areas of low reception.
“The Optus outage proves the critical need for Halo’s robust connectivity making Halo the optimal solution to both common and occasional challenges when using unmanned aerial vehicles, particularly any Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) in any environment,’’ Mr Amitai said.
Elsight’s Halo system is in use worldwide for a variety of purposes, including in the United States by DroneUp, which is one of several companies scaling up its operations for retailing giant Walmart which now offers drone delivery of lightweight items in 36 of its stores.
Sphere Drones partnered with Elsight to integrate its Halo complete connectivity system into the innovative HubX drone platform.
Halo works by aggregating all possible IP links including 4 cellular SIM cards, and others including satellite links where necessary, to one bonded link. It provides operational certainty because of its connectivity redundancies.
The HubX drone platform is a turnkey solution allowing businesses to operate drones from anywhere, to seamlessly collect data anywhere, anytime and off-grid.
This enables autonomous data collection and improves operational safety for a range of industries. It consists of an Australian-built all-terrain trailer which is powered by solar panels to support continuous self-sustaining drone operations.
The solar trailer is fitted with a powerful watch tower, which acts as a connectivity platform and gateway to DJI’s Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB).
These elements combined remove substantial barriers for businesses to operate BVLOS autonomous drone missions.
The November 8 Optus outage lasted more than 14 hours and disconnected more than 10 million customers, disabling EFTPOS machines, affecting hospitals, Melbourne Metro Trains, and rendering emergency services calls using the Optus network inoperable.
But the Sphere Drones’ HubX trial at a remote mine in the Hunter Valley was unaffected despite leveraging Optus for part of its connectivity prior to the October 8 outage.
Sphere Drones Chief Executive Officer, Paris Cockinos, said the HubX was connected by two Optus SIM cards and two Telstra SIM cards, combined with an additional satellite connection through Starlink.
“Initially the throughput to Optus was 75% due to speed and connectivity,’’ Mr Cockinos said.
“However, when the Optus outage occurred, the Telstra and Starlink services took over the service, resulting in zero interruption to the customer’s requirements.
“The outage demonstrated the importance of having redundancy in critical communications lines for drone operators.
“We now have proof in the pudding. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority stipulates that drones require constant connectivity and the solution architecture of HubX demonstrated exactly that,’’ Mr Cockinos said.
Mr Cockinos said HubX, has been in development for more than 15 months and has a pending patent. He advised HubX would initially be targeted at the mining industry because of its ability to deploy in a matter of minutes without any infrastructure and its complete connection capabilities.
But he believes the product will also be popular in agriculture, for crop inspection, utilities for inspections of assets such as transmission lines and pipelines, as well as remote infrastructure and emergency services.
Continuous communication is essential for flying BVLOS missions to maintain contact if drones encounter unexpected obstacles or changing weather conditions requiring immediate navigation updates, rerouting instructions, and guidance to avoid potential hazards during the flight.
Elsight’s Halo technology was central to US drone operator Airobotics receiving US Flight Administration Authority approval in September to fly its data drones over urban areas without seeking case by case approvals.
The US FAA decision has sparked a dramatic rise in Halo orders from Airobotics in the past few weeks.
Many regulatory authorities require continuous communication capabilities before allowing Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations to ensure operators can maintain control and respond to any issues promptly.
Mr Amitai said the fact that Halo allowed the Sphere Drones’ HubX platform drone to proceed despite the Optus outage would bolster local authorities’ confidence in the complete connection offered by Elsight’s Halo.