Communications Software for Drones & Unmanned Systems
Software that manages communications is used with a wide range of unmanned systems and robotic vehicle platforms, including UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones, USVs (unmanned surface vessels), UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) and UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles). This software may be part of a wider C2 (command and control), C3 (command, control and communications) or CPNC (control and non-payload communication) suite, and may enable communications via UHF or VHF radio, cellular, or SATCOM (satellite communications.
Drone communications software may facilitate connections between the vehicle and its GCS (ground control station) as well as between multiple vehicles in a swarm. Ground-based C3 software operated by the pilot may be installed on portable computing devices such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop, or on specially developed GCS hardware. Onboard communications software will usually be installed on the drone’s autopilot or flight controller. Commonly used communications protocols include MAVlink and UAVCAN.
Communications software may be used to transmit a wide range of information between vehicle and operator. This may include telemetry, real-time video, image and data feeds from sensors and payloads, and vehicle parameters and information such as flight plans, system updates, altitude, battery life and GPS location. The software may also be able to store, organize and display this data. Some software may also enable transmission of voice data, allowing the drone pilot to talk to nearby air traffic control (ATC) towers and other officials.
Communications software for both civilian and military drones and unmanned systems may need to incorporate secure encryption to ensure that sensitive and mission-critical data is protected. Government and military UAV communications software may be certified to NATO STANAG 4586, which defines a large number of elements such as architectures, communications protocols and message formats.