Photo: Rockwell Collins
The industry has taken another step toward safe beyond-line-of-sight unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations. Rockwell Collins said it, along with Black & Veatch, successfully demonstrated a flight of this nature along nearly 10 miles of powerline infrastructure with a Pulse Aerospace Vapor 55 drone.
As part of the FAA’s Focus Area Pathfinder initiative, BNSF Railway has demonstrated such drone operations on multiple occasions. A round of BNSF Railway drone flight tests involved Rockwell Collins’ CNPC-1000 data link. Rockwell Collins said that it leveraged this experience while conducting the demonstration with Black & Veatch. A similar safety case was applied, Rockwell Collins said, to show that the CNPC-1000 command and control data link and webUAS operations management technologies could be used in industries besides railway.
“Monitoring critical infrastructure, particularly those in rural areas beyond line of sight, can be done much more efficiently and effectively through the use of UAS technology,” said Ken Schreder, VP of strategic programs, information management services at Rockwell Collins. “We’ve created a mobile beyond-line-of-sight system with networked command and control capability, which enables us to demonstrate the benefits to infrastructure customers.”
Using powerline infrastructure owned by Illinois-based Ameren Corporation, the demonstration was also observed by Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Laboratory. The laboratory coordinated with Rockwell Collins to integrate the data link into the test vehicle, as well as to configure and fly the drone during the demonstration.
Black & Veatch engineered, designed and procured the temporary network that enabled the CNPC-1000 radio connectivity, Rockwell Collins said. It also took part in a joint project management effort with Ameren, coordinating parties involved in the test.
Rockwell Collins has also integrated CNPC-1000 with its Athena integrated navigation product for use in drones. When in the air, it can talk to a ground system, integrated with the company’s Pro Line Fusion flight management system and display.