Uncrewed Systems Technology 046

89 management for BVLOS operations, this capability must be maintained. There has been a lot of debate over the past 20 years about the kinds of command and control (C2) infrastructure needed, owing to some technical challenges that could impede any effort to build such a network. The first is aircraft radio technology itself. High-quality radio systems are non-negotiable if a proposed C2 network is to pass muster with the FAA or its counterparts in other nations. But the radios must also be certifiable under C2-relevant TSOs or similar kinds of minimum performance specifications for airworthiness, or have sufficiently high design standards that UAV OEMs could integrate during their own type certification efforts. The second challenge is that the ground network must also be certifiable in order for the links between GCSs and UAVs to be guaranteed as safe. As well as quality equipment, the radios must be able to communicate with each other as well as the UAVs, while also seamlessly transitioning from one radio to the next in a coordinated fashion. Lastly, a frequency band must be settled on that will provide enough bandwidth for all the vehicles and radios to communicate without the risk of issues such as congestion, range or multi- pathing constraints. If one wants to build a network quickly, using an unlicenced band such as ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) would be the first choice, but ISM radios are vulnerable to a lot of interference, which their users are expected to deal with themselves. Licenced-use frequencies such as those for 4G and LTE are less risky owing to reduced congestion, and they are also centrally coordinated by the cellular providers. Also, a ‘specific licenced-use’ frequency would mean a dedicated frequency band exclusively for BVLOS C2 in UAVs, but the expense would be staggering and a lot of deliberation over frequency allocations would be needed. Despite these hurdles though, the first pioneering steps towards widespread C2 links for BVLOS operations have at last been taken, under the eyes of the Vantis network in North Dakota. Vantis will essentially be a state-wide network of radio towers, radars and GCSs to enable constant monitoring of UAVs’ relevant mission telemetry, including vital UTM data such as GNSS location, heading and altitude. The Vantis network originated from the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) vision for advancing state-wide BVLOS capabilities and infrastructure. Christian Ramsey, president of uAvionix, says, “North Dakota has a fantastic, intuitively designed and well-maintained road system that’s been key to the thousands of trucks swarming around on behalf of the local oil & gas industry, among many others. They’ve formed their vision of the Vantis project analogously to that: they want a ground-based infrastructure that will enable a new wave of economic activity through uncrewed systems.” Vantis BVLOS network | In operation North Dakota has a fantastic road system that’s been key to the local oil & gas industry. The vision of the Vantis project is analogous to that Uncrewed Systems Technology | October/November 2022 The Vantis network is expanding to provide C2 coverage for BVLOS UAV missions across North Dakota, and uAvionix is responsible for flight-testing it (Courtesy of uAvionix)