For the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) industry, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) connectivity is critical for maximum efficiency and is the driver for innovation across multiple markets.
Remotely piloted aircraft and vehicles open a world of possibilities and have the potential to change the way the world transports goods, monitors assets, conducts environmental research, and much more. However, before we can tap the full potential of this market, we must ensure that these assets can remain reliably connected across the entire planet. Many are surprised to learn that cellular networks leave more than 80 percent of the world without coverage, and many satellite networks, such as those located in
Geostationary Orbit (GEO), do not deliver ubiquitous, truly global connectivity. With multiple industries heading in an autonomous direction, this reality poses an important question.
How do we ensure constant and reliable connectivity that removes the limitations of traditional BVLOS capabilities?
When it comes to line of sight, there should be no limits
As mentioned earlier, ground-based infrastructure and GEO satellite networks have their fair share of coverage and reliability limitations. Since GEO networks are aligned with the Equator, signal strength is greatly impacted by elevation and latitude creating inconsistent and incomplete geographical coverage.
These challenges can pose major issues since oftentimes UAVs, such as drones, are deployed in locations too remote or too dangerous to send humans. However, it is important to note that where cellular or GEO satellite connectivity is available, both can be solid options for autonomous flight. Therefore, as an industry, we must work to fill these connectivity gaps through extending beyond the reach of ground-based infrastructure, and by offering companion satellite solutions so that redundant and reliable communications are always available.
When looking at communications options best suited to fill coverage gaps, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite networks are the front runner. With close proximity to Earth, Iridium’s LEO satellites offer low latency and highly reliable connectivity even during inclement weather events, both of which are top priorities for the UAV industry. In addition to latency and reliability, truly global coverage is a must for flying unmanned aircraft, and for adding communications redundancy. Among any satellite networks, to
date, Iridium® is the only commercial, mobile satellite network that delivers coverage to the entire planet and supports UAVs with its Global Line of Sight SM (GLOS SM ) service. Iridium GLOS service is provided through the company’s unique network of 66 crosslinked LEO satellites offering low latency and robust coverage that is unmatched by competing satellite players.
Iridium GLOS solutions are already helping organizations around the world undertake critical and previously not possible remotely piloted missions. Iridium’s small form factor core technology makes the integration and development process simple, helping bring new applications quickly to market. For instance, companies such as Swoop Aero use drones to deliver life-saving vaccines to highly remote areas of the world. Each drone relies on Iridium satellite technology to monitor the location and condition of each vaccine package to ensure prompt and intact arrival. Another organization, Boreal,
uses Iridium Connected® UAVs to enable weather monitoring efforts. These drones collect data used to help understand cyclone phenomena, helping make certain populations less vulnerable to hazardous weather events.
As the UAV market continues to grow, we can expect the demand for autonomous capabilities to expand across many industries. With this in mind, it is critical for technology companies and developers to understand that “beyond line of sight” is only scratching the surface. No corner of the world is off limits making truly global coverage more important than ever before.
For more information about Iridium Global Line of Sight services, please visit