Skyward, FAA Testing Cellular-Connected Drones

Skyward, a Verizon company, is collaborating with the FAA to test cellular-connected drones.

The company recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—Cellular Technologies to Support UAS Activities,” according to a news release. Through the MOA, Skyward and the FAA will research the capabilities of cellular communication networks for command and control (C2) within the National Airspace System (NAS).

The three-year MOA will partially focus on C2 data as well as allow the two groups to propose standards for operations. This includes BVLOS and over the commercial wireless spectrum. Skyward and Verizon will also use the data collected to inform discussions on C2 and BVLOS operations in the FAA’s BVLOS Advisory and Rulemaking Committee.

“Cellular-connected drones play a critical role in enabling tomorrow’s safe, reliable and secure drone operations,” said Matt Fanelli, director of strategy and operations at Skyward, A Verizon company, according to the release. “We are thrilled to be laying this foundation with the FAA and are confident that our efforts will help inform technical standards from which industry regulations authorizing low-risk BVLOS and one-to-many operations will flow.”

Verizon’s 4G LTE nationwide coverage, provided over spectrum protected from interference, presents an opportunity for drones to complete more complex operations. The MOA will inform regulations regarding spectrum used in the C2 link between the drone operator and drone. It will also facilitate information sharing between the FAA and Skyward as they continue to explore how wireless networks can support drone operations.