I was going to sit down today and write about Involi, a company I had heard of but not seen in action until the Lake Victoria Challenge. A power cut has made that easier to do, more of that later.
Involi is a Swiss company who have set out to create their own network of ADS-B, FLARM, and Mode-S receivers to start plotting low-level air traffic. That is to say tracks below 2000 feet. Their aim is to increase situational awareness for RPAS.
They not only hear the data but verify it as well making sure it is what it says it is and then send that data on to whoever needs it.
In our use case, that data would arrive in our ground control station and allow deconfliction with manned traffic in the area that we are flying.
Networks of civilian ADS-B receivers are not a new thing. FlightRadar24 and FlightAware have used them to allow relatives to see loved one’s flights en route and airports to keep their arrivals boards up to date. Some UTM providers buy their ADS-B and Mode-S data from such citizen networks.
Until Involi came along there was no similar service dedicated for drone operators. You can make your own as we have done down here but it relies on an important factor, power.
Not just power for the receiver but the interwebs as well. We are currently experiencing rolling power cuts in South Africa, 11 of our power stations have issues and so our power provider Eskom switches off different parts of the country during the day, bad news then for our network of receivers located along the N3 highway over a distance of about 500km.
I know then that our coverage will be compromised in patches and the server itself might go down. It is not a huge train smash as this has been more of an experiment than a must-have service.
Involi removes that risk by partnering with cell phone operators and positioning their equipment on their cell phone towers. This keeps them connected to the web and powered up 24/7. It also positions the receivers in great locations, because that’s just what the cell phone company needs to do as well.
So Involi offers a drone-centric power and data protected low-level deconfliction service.
If your UTM only relies on crowdsourced data there may be holes in coverage due to circumstances beyond their control.
I hope to have Manu from Involi on the Hangout soon to do a better job of explaining that.