Altitude Angel, Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) technology provider, Inmarsat, global mobile satellite communications, and A-techSYN, manufacturer of next generation Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have announced the successful conclusion of drone test flights using their jointly developed Pop-Up UTM platform.
The Pop-Up UTM platform delivers advanced Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight tracking for UAVs. It enables drones to be safely integrated into controlled airspace and ensures they are visible to – and can be kept distant from – other air traffic.
During October and November 2020, an A-TechSYN CGT50 VTOL UAV – using the compact Cobham AVIATOR 200 satcom solution integrated with UAV Navigation’s POLAR Attitude & Heading Reference System (AHRS) – flew numerous BVLOS flights, connected and tracked using Inmarsat’s global L-band satellite network. The fully autonomous flights were initiated and monitored by a pilot 60km from the take-off and landing area near Ankara, Turkey, and were tracked, monitored and managed using the Pop-Up UTM platform by a team at Altitude Angel’s HQ in Reading, United Kingdom.
The test flights produced excellent results, with the UTM platform offering full situational awareness to the operator team. During the tests, the system detected a possible conflict with a commercial aircraft. As designed, the Pop-Up UTM correctly triggered a warning to de-conflict the two aircraft, allowing appropriate avoidance action to be taken.
Phil Binks, Altitude Angel’s Head of Air Traffic Management, said: “Our partnership with Inmarsat in the development of Pop-Up UTM has, in a little under six months, engineered a platform which has the power to save lives and revolutionise the way operators deploy UAV services. As an example, emergency services and first responders would be able to use drones alongside manned aircraft in the most challenging of scenarios. The trial flights not only established how Pop-Up UTM could be quickly deployed, but the unexpected arrival of a GA aircraft and its triggering of the de-confliction software demonstrated how the platform will perform in a real-world environment.”
All flights were conducted under full satcom command and control, with FPV (Forward Position Video) feed, utilising Inmarsat’s SB-S platform. Successful handovers occurred between satcom and radio frequency control, demonstrating that Inmarsat can deliver advanced BVLOS operations for UAVs.
Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Director of UAVs & UTM, added: “With our global satellite network, and more than 30 years of experience in communications, navigation and surveillance services, Inmarsat is uniquely placed to be the catalyst for growth of the commercial UAV market and bring powerful benefits to business and society as a result. With flight tests now complete, we are excited to offer new UTM services in 2021 and beyond that will help businesses unlock the limitless possibilities of commercial drone operations.”
The drone test flights provided a real-world demonstration of how Pop-Up UTM can be used to allow manned and unmanned aircraft to operate in close proximity, safely and securely. With BVLOS operations now a reality, a single pilot can operate a UAV remotely and beyond the horizon, boosting the commercial viability of unmanned aerial operations.
Gokhan Celik, A-techSYN’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “With this demonstration, we have successfully overcome a significant challenge facing the aviation industry – safely integrating UAVs into civil airspace. UAVs weighing more than 50kg, such as A-TechSYN’s CGT50 VTOL, are fast becoming the gold standard in unmanned operations, including search and rescue, pipeline/powerline inspections, and long distance medical delivery. Drones can now evolve from passive broadcasting to active communication with the UTM in real time, mirroring manned aviation processes. We are very happy with the results of the Pop-Up UTM and have decided to make Inmarsat satcom connectivity and UTM integration standard on all our CGT50 VTOL units.”