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BVLOS flight is of critical importance to the drone industry. In the US, as advocates petition the FAA for quick action on Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recommendations, providers offering supply chain and delivery services, security operations, long-range survey and mapping are ready to take flight as regulations allow.
Elsight makes the Halo, a small form-factor, AI-powered drone connectivity platform. Halo is designed to solve a critical requirement of BVLOS drone operations: reliable, predictable connectivity between the aircraft and command and control. In a new paper, Elsight presents a new concept for BVLOS flight – and explains how drones and mobile networks are the way to make it happen: without years of development or major expense.
A New Concept of BVLOS Flight: Drone Network Operations Center
BVLOS flight is commonly understood as simply flying a drone out of sight of the operator. That can mean delivering products 3 or 4 miles away, or it can mean operating a drone on the other side of a tall building or fence, out of sight of the pilot.
That’s only one understanding of BVLOS flight – and “the truth is that BVLOS is much more than that,” says Elsight. Elsight’s global clients understand BVLOS flight in the context of truly remote operations: of one pilot managing multiple drones launching, flying and landing miles away, from a centralized Drone Network Operations Center (DNOC). With one operator and multiple aircraft, the value proposition of drone technology is amplified.
BVLOS operations coupled with use of a DNOC (Drone Network Operation Center) will exponentially increase the possible UAS applications along with the distance. Agricultural operators will be able to cover fields which are tens or hundreds of acres in size with many UAS at once; utilities operators can simultaneously use UAS to inspect miles worth of cables or pipes, and retailers and fulfillment centers can carry out greater numbers of efficient mid-mile or last-mile deliveries. These are just a few of the use cases which are made available to the drone market once operators can take full advantage of flying their drones beyond the Visual Line of Sight.
Drones and Mobile Networks
For safe remote operations, aircraft must remain reliably connected to the DNOC. That’s a challenge, but Elsight argues that the solution is at hand now: and there is no need to spend years on new development. Mobile networks are cheap, readily available, and effective – especially as the 5G rollout continues.
The widespread use of cellular phones and other mobile devices, as well as the proliferation of telecom companies who are striving to increase their coverage over as wide an area as possible, creates a fortuitous situation where drone operators can benefit from the wide range of communications networks made available to them without the need to find new spectrums and deploy new networks, which takes years, or create a new communications paradigm.
While Unlicensed RF and Satellite offer alternatives, both of these solutions require a receiver which adds weight to the aircraft. Mobile networks don’t require a significant investment to utilize, and are already globally deployed according to common technological standards in most areas.
The Benefits of 5G
As the 5G rollout continues, it will become even more practical and effective to utilize mobile networks for drone communications, says Elsight. 5G will further increase reliability, security, and reception compared to 4G – decreasing the risk of disconnection and ensuring smooth data streams. Network slicing has the potential to provide UAS with a dedicated slice of the 5G network.
BVLOS flight, and the operation of multiple flights from a DNOC, is a transformative technology. Drones operating BVLOS have the potential to act as a force multiplier in a vast number of industries, helping to solve critical problems in food production, supply chain, and environmental conservation. Both the aircraft and the supporting technology already exist to make BVLOS flight safe and feasible.
Read more about Elsight:
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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