Silvertone Flamingo controlled via 3G network.

Silvertone Flamingo

An avionics research team from QUT’s Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) has used Telstra’s Next GTM mobile network to command an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

The flight test is believed to be one of the first in the world to demonstrate the feasibility of using a secure commercial mobile communications network for the command and control of a pilotless aircraft.

The ARCAA is a joint venture between Queensland University of Technology and CSIRO ICT Centre.

Leading UAS researcher QUT’s Dr Luis Mejias said using commercial mobile data networks such as Telstra Next GTM could provide a solution to many of the challenges facing the mass rollout of remote controlled, machine to machine (M2M) technologies.

“Currently there is a limited communications spectrum available for UAS applications, public mobile networks, like the expansive Next G™ network, could be used to augment existing technology and improve the coverage over which command and control links can be used” Dr Mejias said.

“Mobile network technology could also allow autonomous UAS to fly further and to carry higher resolution camera equipment than those currently in use which are limited by line-of-sight communications systems,” he said.

Telstra’s Next G™ third generation HSPA+ network is being employed in other research at QUT to monitorkoala calls on St Bees Island off the coast of Mackay and to track rare bird populations at Brisbane Airport.

Mike Wright, executive director Telstra Wireless, said the ability to support leading edge research is just one of the many strengths of the Next G™ network.

“Telstra has supported QUT with a number of research projects that are putting the Next G™ network to use in some exciting ways. They are testament not just to the innovative and bright minds at QUT, but to the flexibility, reliability and extensive range of our network,” he said.

The UAS research is being undertaken as part of the Smart Skies Project, a research collaboration between QUT, the CSIRO ICT Centre and Boeing Research & Technology.

QUT aviation researcher Professor Rodney Walker said recent flight trials had also demonstrated the use of such networks for future airspace systems being developed as part of the Smart Skies Project.

“Smart Skies has successfully used the Next GTM network to send collision avoidance commands to a Cessna plane and an unmanned helicopter flying in Kingaroy,” Professor Walker said.

The Smart Skies project is supported by the Queensland State Government’s Smart State scheme.

For more information on the Smart Skies Project please contact Professor Rodney Walker or