While the fast-approaching ADS-B Out mandate does not apply to drones, there’s still a strong case for integrating the technology in both manned and unmanned operations. AOPA members can purchase uAvionix solutions for both kinds of aircraft at a discount.
Manned aircraft owners have just a few weeks left to equip before January 1, 2020, ADS-B Out deadline, and it’s a hot topic in aviation. So are drones, and not always for the best reasons. Headlines around the world report both the benefits and dangers of this incredible new technology; from medical and blood supply delivery in Rwanda to airport shutdowns in London.
There is a critical intersection of these two topics: Drone technologies are evolving each year, and much of the effort to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft in the same airspace focuses on detect-and-avoid (DAA) technology. Just as manned pilots must “see and avoid” other aircraft, drones will need to be able to avoid colliding with other aircraft, and that needs to be as automated as possible. There are dozens of DAA technologies in development ranging from computer vision systems to radar, electro-optical systems, and even microphones tuned to listen for nearby aircraft. But many of these systems are too big, too expensive, or simply don’t perform well enough yet.
Right now, the most cost-effective and robust DAA solution available is ADS-B receivers (or ADS-B In) on the drone itself, enabling the remote pilot to be aware of any nearby aircraft broadcasting ADS-B Out.
uAvionix leads the industry when it comes to ADS-B technology for both general aviation and drones. You may know uAvionix as the manufacturer of tailBeacon and skyBeacon—the lowest-cost ADS-B Out solution for GA aircraft.You may not know that we also develop ADS-B In modules for drones.
There has been a lot of movement just this year in leveraging ADS-B as a key DAA solution. Here are some key activities:
- In May, we announced a partnership with CubePilot, the most popular drone autopilot manufacturer on the planet, to integrate ADS-B In as a native capability to their autopilot solutions.
- DJI, the largest consumer drone manufacturer with an estimated 80 percent or more of the worldwide drone market, recently announced its intention to include ADS-B In receivers in all of its new model consumer drones weighing over 250g starting in 2020.
- This summer, uAvionix announced it will supply free pingRX ADS-B receivers to first responders and others participating in disaster recovery efforts during the 2019 hurricane season.
- And now, we are offering pingRx and pingUSB ADS-B traffic receivers at a discount to AOPA members.
In the drone industry, it is becoming a culturally responsible thing to integrate ADS-B as the DAA technology of choice. This is great news for pilots because drones are very hard to see (and avoid) from the cockpit, and situational awareness for all will dramatically reduce risk.
Remote pilots must always yield right of way to any manned aircraft, and that’s not always easy when trees, buildings, and other obstacles can obscure an approaching aircraft.
Eyes and ears alone may not always leave a remote pilot enough time to get out of the way of an approaching aircraft. Just like in the cockpit, ADS-B In on your drone gives you precious minutes to detect, decide, and act. The more operators participate in ADS-B, the safer everyone will be.