NextGen, FAA seek UAV study participants for beyond line of sight

By Luke Geiver | December 18, 2014

The NextGen Institute has been tasked by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a study on low-altitude, beyond line of sight communications for unmanned aircraft systems. “This solution seeks study of the feasibility of “Point-to-Point” and “Network” approaches to UAS command and control (C2) to better understand potential user needs and to explore evolutionary paths to establishing a nation-wide system for delivering UAS command and control communications,” NextGen said in its solicitation announcement.

NextGen was established in 2005 by the FAA and the National Center for Advanced Technologies. The goal of NextGen is to link the private and government sectors on major issues.

The FAA has already stated that C2 communications can be achieved by point-to-point or networking methods. In the point-to-point approach, the operator of the UAS system would use a repeater system, requiring a single channel, or increment, of UAS C2 spectrum capability. Using the networking approach, multiple communication channels could be used and a UAV operating within a designated area offering multiple channels could be handed off from one constituent asset to the next during flight.

NextGen and the FAA believe either method could work in providing safe and secure beyond line of sight operations. The study will address the advantages, disadvantages and requirements necessary for using either C2 method for a wide range of applications including pipeline inspection, package delivery, photographic services and more.

After receiving solicitations for the study, NextGen will select two teams to conduct separate, independent studies. Each study will be based on a specific scenario, according to NextGen. The studies will be completed in three months following the selection. Draft reports of the studies are due two weeks before the final reports on the studies released. Each study participant will be given $50,000 to conduct the study. Final results should be submitted by May 11, 2015. To learn more about the studies and see example scenarios, click here