Uncrewed Systems Technology 046

96 In operation | Vantis BVLOS network of future test flights based on the events of the day. Between flights, there might be changes to equipment on the UAVs or GCSs, or around them (such as antennas), so a ‘maintenance test flight’ will be needed. Clark says that consists of flying the UAV in a specified test area, not as part of a mission but of a more risky flight pattern. Post-processing allows for detailed evaluations of network quality between different stages of development and times of year. It also allows analyses necessary for identifying where hardware and software can be altered to enhance C2 link quality to be identified, and overlays of different mission parameters and data sets to predict where the network must be strengthened to ensure the safety of customers’ uncrewed assets and any other aircraft passing through the area. Over the horizon Although the Vantis network’s coverage stretches over only a small area at the moment, the government of North Dakota is clear in its wish for the roll- out to continue state-wide, with more radios, radars and capacity being added over time and more UAVs flying simultaneously. “We’re also using Vantis as a blueprint for safe and scalable BVLOS flights for other states and regions,” Matus notes. “In practical terms, we’ve identified a clear path towards safe and recurring UAS operations by providing aviation-grade infrastructure and field- proven operational procedures for the network’s end-users.” The network’s technologies will probably evolve over time, in both software-defined and hardware terms. For instance, uAvionix has just released a new ‘link manager’ system that will be able to coordinate and select between multiple C2-capable radios on a UAV – be it an ISM radio, an LTE radio, a C-band radio or other – based on which performs the best, is the safest or least costly (in data billing terms) to use at a given moment. “And as mentioned, we anticipate a transition away from ISM radios to C-band radios, as the latter have greater power and hence range, meaning the corresponding ground network wouldn’t need to be as dense,” Ramsey says. “They are also safer than ISM, because they will be subject to far less interference. And our SkyLine system will keep evolving to collect more data as we learn what’s most important to our customers going forward.” He also says uAvionix is in talks with other projects and organisations (currently undisclosed) that are interested in the progress of Vantis and how it could be recreated elsewhere in the world, and that even Vantis itself wants to replicate its own success, most likely starting with its immediate neighbouring states. “We’re also now in the process of getting our 91-113 BVLOS waiver, which will allow uAvionix to start BVLOS test flights in the network as well. That will speed up the end-users’ own BVLOS approvals.” And although some of those end- users have been named earlier as UAS companies, Matus notes that Vantis’ infrastructure supports commercial UAV operations as much as advanced aerial mobility vehicles such as urban air taxis or other crewed autonomous eVTOL systems. He therefore anticipates that Thales’ role and technologies will also evolve to satisfy the long-term needs of Vantis’ user base of aerial systems. October/November 2022 | Uncrewed Systems Technology The Rapace always returns with a safe margin of remaining battery charge, and other packs are kept ready to enable fast maintenance and round-the-clock flight testing (Courtesy of uAvionix) We anticipate a transition away from ISM radios to C-band, as the latter has more power and hence range with less interference