uAvionix Secures FAA Contract to Enhance BVLOS Communications for UAS

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In a significant move towards enhancing the commercial use of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS), uAvionix, known for its avionics solutions for both uncrewed and crewed aircraft, has been awarded a contract by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) program. This contract focuses on the development of a reliable Command and Control (C2) communication system for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, facilitating extended flights across challenging terrains.

Partnering with the University of Alaska Fairbanks UAS Test Site, uAvionix aims to revolutionize C2 communications by utilizing its Link Executive Manager (LEM). This innovation will integrate LTE, Iridium SATCOM, and C-Band communications links to ensure continuous and reliable control over long-range BVLOS flights, particularly along an Alaskan pipeline.

Cyriel Kronenburg of uAvionix highlighted the importance of having multiple, seamless connections to the aircraft to ensure safety and flexibility in remote and mountainous terrain. “Reliance on a single link or common infrastructure isn’t always feasible in remote and mountainous terrain. Having multiple, seamless connections to the aircraft from airborne and ground-based communications provides the safety and flexibility needed to reliably perform these complex operations,” Kronenburg stated. This approach is expected to provide valuable data to support FAA rule-making and demonstrate the safe and economical use of UAS technology across various terrains and infrastructures.

Traditionally, BVLOS operations in the NAS required FAA waivers or exemptions, heavily relying on a single active C2 link with a single alternate standby link. However, the challenging terrain conditions in Alaska often impact the availability of these links, which can hinder the approval process for BVLOS operations or lead to mission failures. The collaboration between uAvionix and the FAA aims to minimize these risks by integrating cellular networks, Iridium SATCOM, and aviation-protected C-Band into a comprehensive C2 communication system. This system will feature multiple concurrent links, utilizing both frequency and path diversity to tackle adverse topographical challenges.

The system will be managed by the LEM through the SkyLine cloud-based platform, ensuring seamless and automatic switching between radios to maintain consistent communication, regardless of ground conditions. The upcoming test flights at the Alaska UAS test site will specifically target achieving path and link diversity in an environment where cellular coverage is limited, and natural obstacles pose significant challenges.

Christian Ramsey, Managing Director for Uncrewed Aviation at uAvionix, emphasized the company’s successful history of collaboration with the FAA, stating, “We have a consistent track record of collaboration and success with the FAA. This contract builds upon that success and demonstrates our commitment to advancing BVLOS operations for the industry.” This initiative is poised to advance the commercial viability of UAS operations, focusing on safety and efficiency for operators and marking a pivotal step forward for BVLOS operations in the UAS industry.

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