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As the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or systems (UASs) used for civilian and military applications continue to grow, so does the need for secure and reliable connectivity with manned aviation. Frequentis and Sunhillo have addressed the challenge of connecting the UAV pilot in command (PIC) with air traffic control (ATC) units by developing its UAS-C (unmanned aerial system connector) system.
The UAS-C converts UAS position data into standard aviation formats and provides a secure virtual radio communication link to connect seamlessly to the existing ATC infrastructure.
High-quality surveillance information and voice communication are essential for a common air situation picture and shared situational awareness for ATC, UAV pilots and manned aviation. The primary concern when integrating civilian and military UAVs into the airspace is safe, secure and reliable communication between all airspace users in the same geographical region.
The surveillance of manned aviation is mainly based on primary and secondary radar technology, which cannot safely detect, identify and predict the position or future track of UAVs, while ATC communication currently relies entirely on onboard VHF/UHF radios, not available for many UAVs.
“The UAS-C coverts the UAVs onboard position data into standard aviation format (e.g. ASTERIX) for processing in any ATC unit or command center,” said Hannu Juurakko, vice president, ATM Civil. “The data can then be visualized alongside other radar and ADS-B targets, ensuring a common air situation picture. The UAS-C also provides connection to any Frequentis voice switch infrastructure. The UAS-C automatically selects the correct radio frequency by the location of the UAS.”
UAS-C can be connected remotely via LTE or directly via a secure IP network connection. It supports all types of UAV operations flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), including flying in or through controlled airspace, regardless of size, altitude or mission.
“UAVs have the potential to assist various military missions such as aerial surveillance or investigation. Allowing a direct connection between the UAV operator and military ATC is vital for mission success,” said Peter Skiczuk, Frequentis vice president of defense.
UAS-C provides air traffic controllers and command centers with reliable and secure ground-based UAS pilot communication while the UAV pilot uses the same virtual frequency as manned aviation users, minimizing the risk of safety infringements. Since the communication equipment is located on the ground, UAS-C does not relay information through the UAS vehicle radio equipment, reducing the overall weight of the UAS, increasing payload.
“A common air situation picture is key to the safety of both manned and unmanned aircraft,” said Doug Walczak, UAS business development lead at Sunhillo Corporation. “Pilots benefit from party line radio communications and shared situational awareness. The UAS-C also provides the pilot with a ‘see and avoid’ display showing all aircraft, provided via ATC surveillance infrastructure, in the immediate area as well as sending the location of the UAV UAS to ATC or the local command center.”