Satellite firm Inmarsat and autonomous aviation company Reliable Robotics are to partner on the development of communications systems for unmanned cargo aircraft.
The agreement covers remotely piloted aircraft in the US National Airspace System and airspace worldwide and will use Inmarsat’s Velaris satellite communications service to provides connectivity between remote pilots and aircraft.
The service will provide airspace access, including voice and digital communication links with air traffic control. The R&D work is to use existing and certified airframes as well as commercial satellite networks, which should mean it can be brought to market quickly, said Inmarsat, without expensive infrastructure.
Reliable Robotics is developing automated cargo aircraft to increase safety, improve efficiency and open up more routes to regional airports. The company is developing a certifiable system that enables continuous autopilot engagement through all phases of flight, including taxi, takeoff and landing with a remote pilot supervising operations.
Joel Klooster, senior vice president of aircraft operations and safety at Inmarsat Aviation said, “Secure and consistent transmission of digital commands, telemetry and voice data is critical to remote aircraft operation, where availability and integrity of the link are essential to the overall performance. We’re proud to play a crucial role in bringing this world-first satcom solution to market with Reliable Robotics.”
Velaris is powered by Inmarsat’s ELERA satellite network and will provide a secure command and control (C2) link to seamlessly connect Reliable’s remote pilots to its aircraft fleet with comprehensive coverage for communications. A connection is established using a small onboard satellite terminal and information flows through a private network, allowing the system to scale with demand. The equipment is designed to meet the FAA’s recognized means of compliance and technical standards for airborne avionics.
Myles Goeller, chief business officer at Reliable Robotics said, “We appreciate the time and resources Inmarsat has devoted to tailor a global satellite communications solution to our technical, certification and commercial needs. It is exciting to work with Inmarsat to deploy a robust satcom system that will support the scaling of remotely operated aircraft and allow us to fly almost anywhere.”
A satellite-based C2 link between the remote pilot and the aircraft is an integral component of Reliable Robotics autopilot system. Higher precision navigation, sophisticated flight planning capabilities and more robust flight controls are required to better manage aircraft and environmental conditions and improve safety.