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Sat, Jul 01, 2023

BT Group uAvionix Partnership Broadens U.K BVLOS

London Calling

BT Group, the British multinational telecommunications holding company headquartered in London, England, and Skylift, a provider of turnkey Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), successfully conducted demonstration flights utilizing uAvionix’s SkyLine cloud-based command and control (C2) system communicating over C-Band and LTE. 

The flights occasioned two U.K. firsts for UAS operations: operational Command and Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) C2 systems using C-Band and LTE via BT’s Drone SIM, and the transmission of ADS-B OUT on 978 MHz for detect and avoid (DAA) operations. Ergo, UAS operators now have proven access to assured CNPC C2 communications for UAS and Electronic Conspicuity (EC) technology compliant with the new U.K. CAA proposed Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAS EC standard for safe operation of BVLOS missions in an integrated airspace.

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

By dint of SkyFleet’s Ground Control System, the SkyLift team operated its fixed-wing UAS from Bentwaters Park, an ex-Royal Air Force/USAF airfield outside of London. 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. Multiple BT LTE towers stand in the area and two mobile GRS with LTE backhaul connectivity were also deployed.

Drones at Etc. senior product manager Ed Hunter set forth: “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. 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 for purpose of independently verifying 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. The flights, in concert, 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 U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, remarked, “The CAA is committed to enabling the adoption of new technologies and standards to facilitate the wider integration of RPAS into U.K. airspace. We’re proud to have supported the U.K.’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 Modernization Strategy, and facilitating the adoption of high assurance datalinks for RPAS command and control.”

BT Group’s and uAvionix’s shared success at Bentwaters Park facilitates further scaling of infrastructure across the U.K., thereby directly benefiting an increasing number of operators.

FMI: www.bt.com

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