On a cold morning in April 2021 on a rustic highway in North Dakota – a bunch of engineers, pilots, and observers from the Northern Plains UAS Take a look at Web site (NP UAS TS) gathered exterior of the uAvionix Floor Management Station (GCS) van and watched a matte grey Vertical Take-Off and Touchdown (VTOL) Unmanned Plane System (UAS) soar to life, vertically ascend to 100m Above Floor Degree (AGL), transition to ahead flight, financial institution and switch south on autopilot, and head to a waypoint about eight miles away. In the meantime, the pilot in cost (PIC) and Visible Observers (VOs), packed right into a rental automotive, pursued it down a close-by highway.
The GCS van integrated an elevated uAvionix skyStation Floor Radio System (GRS), and one other GRS was stationed on the Southern waypoint. Each have been linked to the uAvionix SkyLine service layer residing in “the cloud,” the place much more engineers have been monitoring the flight from everywhere in the U.S.
Because the plane autonomously flew away from the GCS van, the “hyperlink high quality” of the Command and Management (C2) sign from the uAvionix microLink Airborne Radio System (ARS) controlling the flight diminished as the gap elevated between the plane and GRS within the GCS. Concurrently, the hyperlink high quality related to the Southern GRS steadily improved because the plane grew nearer. At some extent simply previous the midway mark, the SkyLine service layer decided that the Southern GRS forward was the higher selection for sustaining plane management based mostly on hyperlink high quality – and in essentially the most anti-climactic vogue ever –merely handed over management to the Southern GRS. In the event you blinked, you missed it.
Security will get built-in
So why open this text with a descriptive story of what at first look seems to be a ho-hum occasion? As a result of good security ends in “boring.” If each time you boarded an A320 on a enterprise journey you needed to endure a white-knuckle seat-of-the-pilot’s-pants touchdown – the information is perhaps stuffed will much more “incidents” and there could be quite a bit much less air journey. Don’t get me incorrect, aviation is a thrill to be part of for us lovers, however to a lot of the inhabitants – boring is simply high-quality, thanks. That’s what makes aviation the most secure type of journey on the planet.
One cause aviation is so protected is as a result of the complete trade relies on know-how purpose-built with security in thoughts. You don’t use county roads as runways just because they’re already there. Likewise, you don’t use the gasoline pump out of your using lawnmower in your Piper Cub.
The C2 system is the lifeline of a UAS operation, so, logically, a purpose-built C2 system designed for security must be the norm. Sadly, it isn’t, not less than not but. At the moment, the usC2 panorama is crammed with hobby-grade tools, unlicensed frequencies, point-to-point programs that received’t scale, and re-purposed shopper mobile networks. Learn our current article “A Radio Isn’t a Radio” for some perception into why these items matter, and what can go incorrect if a incorrect selection is made.
So, what’s the appropriate selection? The whole C2 system must be managed as a vertically built-in service that dynamically manages its assets in real-time. To take action it should leverage an structure that may meet a security case whereas obfuscating the small print of the underlying transactions from customers of the system. What a mouthful! Cellular networks accomplish this for customers each minute of every single day, however these networks aren’t constructed with safety-of-life purposes in thoughts. One thing equal should evolve into existence to serve an analogous function for UAS, however this time with an emphasis on C2 reliability that underlies security.
A brand new period of aviation requires a brand new period of communications. Meet SkyLine
SkyLine is the world’s first certifiable C2 community that’s focused particularly for UAS and Superior Air Mobility (AAM). Constructed on a foundational core of licensed and certifiable avionics , SkyLine possesses a community service layer that autonomously screens the complete community infrastructure and routes a C2 message to its designated plane after selecting essentially the most applicable GRS based mostly on hyperlink high quality, flight plan, and the infrastructure wants of different plane sharing the community.
At its core, SkyLine is a set of community companies that may be deployed in a public cloud, non-public cloud, or native server(s). It manages communications, capability, handoffs, well being and standing knowledge, and enlargement for the complete ARS/GRS infrastructure.
In UAS operations, two essential elements of sustaining security contain the communication hyperlinks to the plane and autonomy. Typically, the “autonomy” part is believed solely to cope with how the plane behaves when the communication hyperlinks fail. However with SkyLine, it additionally means managing the communications to optimize security, capability, and effectivity of the airspace – to verify these communication hyperlinks don’t fail within the first place, however the system responds appropriately once they do.
When it comes to scalability, challenges come to mild when a number of GRS are required to implement BVLOS flights that stretch past Radio Line of Sight (RLOS) of a single GRS. Relying on the altitude of the operation, this C2 community structure could also be required for linear infrastructure inspection, transit corridors, or for wide-area volumetric protection. In these situations, particular person certification of the GRS and ARS shouldn’t be sufficient to make sure protected operation. Coordinated administration of the underlying system as a complete is critical to make sure protected hand-off from one GRS to the subsequent, total system capability is managed, and dynamic spectrum allocations are centrally managed and served to particular person radios on a flight-by-flight foundation (if no more granularly). This turns into fairly advanced somewhat shortly.
The SkyLine managed C2 service is at present deployed as a part of the Vantis UAS BVLOS Community in North Dakota. Future deployments embody the New Mexico State College FAA UAS Take a look at Web site, and as part of BVLOS trials in Alberta, Canada with accomplice Airmarket. Extra undisclosed areas are anticipated to be introduced within the coming weeks.
The Future – Protected Spectrum
The roadmap for SkyLine deployment is meant to each tempo and speed up the trade and regulatory atmosphere. By necessity, preliminary implementations of SkyLine leverage the uAvionix microLink ARS and skyStation GRS , working in unlicensed ISM 902-928MHz frequencies. However for extra essential and dangerous operations, the world is transferring to “protected spectrum.” And never simply any protected spectrum, however “aviation-protected spectrum.” Protected spectrum means important authorized protections are in place to protect towards interference at these frequencies. “Aviation” protected spectrum means aviation regulators (FAA, CAAs) are the gatekeepers for who will get to construct a radio to entry that spectrum. For instance, a bit of C-band between 5030 and 5091MHz is one such aviation-protected spectral band designated for C2 use. Leveraging these designated bands is how we arrive at a purpose-built C2 community with security designed in from the outset.
The underlying administration companies layer is frequency agnostic. This permits future protected spectrum SkyLink “C Band” radios to be “plug and play” with the in-place structure and supplies end-users with the choice to modify between unlicensed ISM radios, and licensed and authorized C-Band radios.
Dynamic Spectrum Frequency Asset Administration
There may be nonetheless one other drawback to beat. RTCA DO-362 describes it as follows (Notice “CNPC” means “Management and Non-Payload Communications” and is synonymous with “C2” right here. “UA” is an acronym for “Unmanned Plane.”):
There may be solely a small quantity of RF Spectrum obtainable for a CNPC Hyperlink in contrast with the anticipated variety of UA that it might want to assist. Subsequently, the CNPC Hyperlink Project Scheme should be Dynamic in nature. It should solely assign a channel for a brief period of time to any specific UA in order that different UAs can use the identical channel as quickly as it’s now not wanted. A CNPC Hyperlink task could have nice worth to UAS operators as a result of it’s needed with the intention to function. [Appendix I, section I.1]
The roadmap for SkyLine consists of the event of a dynamic Frequency Asset Supervisor (FAM). microLink and SkyLink radios are already architected to just accept dynamic frequency assignments to allow the trade to scale on the wanted tempo.
Again to that highway in North Dakota
Returning again from its journey, the UAS – having skilled a number of extra GRS handoffs – transitions again to vertical flight and settles softly down into the nonetheless brown grass. Everybody fist-bumps, takes photographs, and begins to pack up, keen to move to the Blue Moose for lunch and drinks. It actually is an occasion value celebrating. The Nationwide Airspace System (NAS) of at present combines the airspace, navigation services, and communications infrastructure that retains individuals and items transferring freely and safely. What uAvionix revealed in that blustery subject was the primary cornerstone of the subsequent era NAS.
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