Commercial beyond-line-of-sight UAS operations achieve milestone

By Patrick C. Miller | July 21, 2016

A milestone in using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial beyond-visual- line-of-sight operations has been achieved by avionics developer Rockwell Collins in collaboration with the University of Iowa Operator Performance Lab (OPL).

Earlier this month, a UAS test flight was successfully completed using Rockwell Collins end-to-end integrated avionics technology which the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, company said will help integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system (NAS). OPL provided two TBM-3M Ferox UAS for the flight testing.

In the coming weeks, Rockwell Collins said it plans to conduct another UAS test flight aimed at extending the range of safe beyond visual line of sight operations. According to the company, its end-to-end UAS integrated avionics solution is optimized to scale from small to large UAS.

“A number of industries are very eager to use commercial UAS to make their operations much more efficient, especially those that need to monitor and inspect critical infrastructure such as railroads, pipelines and powerlines,” said John Borghese, vice president of Rockwell Collins’ Advanced Technology Center.

“In order to do that beyond line of sight in the NAS, safe and secure avionics must be implemented,” he said. “We have now proven that it can be done and we are one step closer to making it a reality for this market.”

Rockwell Collins’ technology demonstrated during the test flight included a ground control station with Pro Line Fusion avionics; a command and control network using a CNPC-1000 data link; and Athena UAS avionics with integrated navigation and flight controls.

“Collaboration between private and public sectors is critical to ensuring the success of commercial UAS in the NAS,” said Thomas Schnell, director of the University of Iowa’s OPL.


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