40-Mile BVLOS UAV Flight Demonstrates Ground Radio System, Autopilot

uAvionix conducted a 40-mile demonstration flight combining the Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) flight control capabilities of the company’s new George autopilot with the latest iteration of SkyLine, its managed command and control (C2) infrastructure using three terrestrial skyStation Ground Radio Systems (GRS). The technology demonstration flight took place at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The three SkyStation terrestrial ground radio locations powered the fully autonomous beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight.

Each ground radio was monitored and coordinated through the uAvionix cloud-based SkyLine managed C2 service. SkyLine monitors the connectivity, signal strength, and quality from microLink, the company’s redundant airborne radio system onboard the eVTOL, to manage make-before-break seamless transitions between ground radio locations. Engineers onsite, along with dozens around the world, watched as the SkyLine system determined which of the three ground stations provided the most robust connection, completely autonomously and independent of the pilot in command.

George is a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliant autopilot leveraging the Cube core from CubePilot, combining open-source autopilot with Design Assurance Level (DAL) C hardware and safety and sensor monitoring for customers seeking Type Certification (TC) and safety case evidence for high-risk operations such as BVLOS. uAvionix has a George beta test program for developers to participate in early integration and testing opportunities.

In addition to hardening open-source hardware, George simplifies the integration and compatibility complexities that come with enterprise autopilots and flight avionics. With uAvionix products, including low-SWaP certified transponders, C2 radios, ADS-B detect0-and-avoid solutions, the soon-to-be certified truFYX GPS, and support for hundreds of third-party components, George enables platform developers to quickly assemble a seamless UAS architecture for business or the battlefield.

The SkyLine system is currently being deployed as a component of the Vantis State-Wide North Dakota BVLOS network, the New Mexico UAS Test Site, and the AirMarket-led Energy UTM trials in Canada.

Aviation Grade Radios

The demonstration flight leveraged the uAvionix microLink Airborne Radio Systems (ARS) and skyStation Ground Radio Systems (GRS) developed to ASTM standards. microLink and skyStation are 2X2 MIMO digital frequency hopping radios, designed for UAS with an architecture supported by RTCA DO-362 and ASTM F3002-14a – providing low-latency deterministic connectivity between the ARS and multiple GRS.

uAvionix CEO Paul Beard and inventor of the Spektrum Radio which has become the digital spread spectrum standard for the RC industry elaborates: “Many in the industry are trying to shoehorn radio networking standards which were designed for bulk data transmissions – not for deterministic flight critical applications. In the end, this results in lower performance and uncertainty. We set out to design a purpose-built radio, network, and architecture that blends modern digital radio technology with aviation standards to get the most performance out of a robust system in order to close on the safety case.”

uAvionix recently published an article illustrating the importance of radio selection titled “A Radio isn’t a Radio“, available on the company’s website.