Iridium Connected Drones Offer a Path Forward for Monitored BVLOS Operations

The FAA’s first waiver for BVLOS commercial operations granted to AATI's fixed-wing AiRanger, enabled by Iridium's global L-Band satellite connectivity, demonstrates that Iridium satellite C2 capabilities can meet large drone BVLOS waiver requirements By Sarah Simpson / 21 May 2024
Iridium Connected Drones Offer a Path Forward for Monitored BVLOS Operations
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In a historic development for uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), Iridium Communications Inc. partner American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) has been granted a first-of-its-kind waiver from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The waiver permits AATI to conduct UAS surveillance of critical infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley on behalf of a multinational oil and gas company. Read more: FAA Permits UAS for BVLOS Pipeline Surveillance

It is thought that this waiver may serve as a tipping point for wider adoption of safe and scalable UAS operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Enabled by Iridium’s global L-Band satellite connectivity, AATI’s AiRanger is supporting remote aerial surveillance for the energy corporation’s pipeline and production facilities.

Iridium’s low-latency network is providing reliable and cost-effective BVLOS connectivity, including remote Command and Control (C2) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities.

Flying over a pipeline network, the large drones (over 200 lbs.) will send information via Iridium® satellites to quickly perform routine oil and gas pipeline inspections. Iridium partner Blue Sky Network customized the development and integration of its global, dual-mode SkyLink 7100 voice, data, and BVLOS terminal installed on the aircraft. The Iridium Connected™ Skylink 7100 enables continuous tracking and C2 capabilities for aviation and UAV operations.

The Iridium Connected AiRanger is thought to be the first UAS to demonstrate compliance with industry consensus standards for the DAA system and meet FAA requirements for aircraft right-of-way BVLOS operations. This milestone helps pave the way for companies to deploy BVLOS UAS to support operations and achieve higher situational awareness, lowering inspection costs and maximizing value.

The waiver demonstrates that Iridium satellite C2 capabilities can meet large drone BVLOS waiver requirements with the FAA.

“This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application,” said John Peterson, Executive Director of Aviation, Iridium. “When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers get together, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what’s possible with reliable satellite communications.”

Iridium continues to collaborate with the drone industry in establishing safe separation using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) avionics, and has published a whitepaper that discusses the challenges faced in enabling a safe, scalable, and efficient adoption of UAS in the NAS, including how to maintain safe separation between aircraft and what supportive COTS avionics are readily available today.

In the whitepaper: “Safe Separation With Monitored Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS)”, Iridium provides a recommended equipment list and highlights capabilities enabled by the Iridium network that support safe and scalable UAS operations in the NAS.

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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