Last month we announced a milestone drone operation for Skyward — and the United States. Thanks to a temporary waiver granted by the FAA, Skyward drone pilots were able to conduct entirely remote flights, with no onsite crew, in order to inspect Verizon infrastructure near a wildfire. The pilots were stationed in their home offices, dozens of miles away from the fire. This was made possible because Verizon’s 4G cellular network connected the systems.
From a Skyward blog post by Dave Lincoln.
“We’ve built a BVLOS capability consisting of a remotely deployable drone system, weather monitoring systems like those used at airports, Skyward’s Aviation Management Platform, and state-of-the-art airborne safety systems that allow us to check the surrounding airspace for other aircraft,” said Skyward’s Director of Aviation Development Centers, whose name is X. “Verizon’s 4G LTE network connected these systems, giving the team’s operations lead in Alaska a near real-time picture of the operation from 1,600 miles away.”
Today, this feels like a big deal, and it is. But in the near future, we expect operations like this to become entirely routine.
Wireless Spectrum for Drone Command and Control
Most small drone operations use unlicensed spectrum for command and control (C2), a term used to identify how a drone pilot maintains control of an aircraft. Unlicensed spectrum refers to bands of signals that anyone can use without obtaining a spectrum license from the FCC. Many consumer devices operate on unlicensed spectrum, including Wi-Fi, garage door openers, and baby monitors. While the lack of a requirement for an FCC license makes the spectrum more accessible, it also means the spectrum is used on a “first come, first served” basis. This means no user has a right to exclusive use of the spectrum, nor the expectation to be free of interference. This makes unlicensed spectrum ideal for routine drone operations, such as those authorized under Part 107, but not sufficiently reliable for complex drone operations.
That is exactly where commercial wireless spectrum shows great promise.
Part 107 regulations for small drone operations are silent as to the specific means of command and control. As long as the pilot can meet the requirements of Part 107, there are no rules imposing a particular spectrum band or type of spectrum.
For the complete article on the Verizon cellular network supporting drones CLICK HERE.
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