In an unprecedented move, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and their technology partner, uAvionix, have made history. They've completed America's first drone flights that go beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) using aviation-protected C-Band radio. This marks a significant leap forward in drone aviation and its potential applications.
Why Is This Significant?
C-Band radio frequencies might soon be dedicated exclusively to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The significance? It could unlock the potential for safer and more reliable BVLOS flights.
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still fine-tuning the final BVLOS rule, insiders predict this could drastically expand the range and coverage area of drone operations.
The partners operated under the watchful eye of the FCC and FAA, leveraging uAvionix's groundbreaking SkyLine software at the CNO Emerging Aviation Technologies Center. This center is one of only eight that the FAA has designated for BVLOS testing.
Paul Beard, the founder and chief technology officer of uAvionix, couldn't contain his excitement about the technology.
In a press statement, He said, “[SkyLine] is the only C2CSP service designed to RTCA DO-377A and DO-362A standards for aviation and enables us to fly without chase vehicles, visual observers, or requiring other nearby aircraft to have their own detect and avoid sensors on board.” Beard praised it as a “brilliant piece of engineering.”
What's Behind the Technology?
uAvionix's partnership with CNO began in 2018. Since then, they've been using CNO's vast 44,500-acre site to conduct numerous tests and demonstrations. Their recent test flight utilized a drone named Super Volo, supported by uAvionix's cutting-edge C2CSP system.
This included an airborne radio and multiple ground radios, with SkyLine software ensuring a steady link between the two.
The innovation doesn't stop there. James Grimley, executive director for the CNO Emerging Aviation Technologies Center, spoke of the partnership's broader vision.
He stated, “Together we have created a technical and operational system that is the foundation for others to safely operate UAS for a variety of safety-critical, long-range and higher altitude missions.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Christian Ramsey, managing director of uAvionix, elaborated on the potential of C-Band technology to Flying magazine, noting that it “vastly extends the range of operations.” With tests showing C-band radios working effectively over 100 miles from a single ground transmitter, the future seems promising.
If the FCC accepts the proposal, the exclusive use of C-Band could shield drone operations from outside interference, providing a more stable connection. This would be crucial for BVLOS operations, which currently depend heavily on visual observers or secondary aircraft.
The advancements could be a game-changer for various businesses. From medical and package deliveries to utility inspections and emergency management, the possibilities seem endless.
As we await the FCC's final decision, which is expected in the upcoming months, the Drone Industry is abuzz with anticipation. This collaboration between uAvionix and CNO might just have set the stage for a drone revolution in the U.S.
Photo courtesy of uAvionix.
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