UK Project XCelerate white paper examines role of critical communications

Explaining how the UK’s Project XCelerate is supporting development of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) has released a White Paper about the 8km-long drone corridor established in open and unrestricted airspace in Berkshire in 2020.

Project XCelerate seeks to demonstrate how using a commercial mobile network, drones can operate safely in the same airspace as manned aviation in order to overcome the challenge of enabling safe BVLOS flights, essential to accelerating the adoption of fully automated drones in unrestricted UK airspace. It aims to showcase how drones can provide value across various verticals, including healthcare and the emergency services, as well as critical infrastructure.

Consortium partners include BT, Altitude Angel, Dronecloud, HeroTech8, Skyports, cyber security provider Angoka, and end users SkyBound Rescuer and DroneStream. GSMA’s ACJA interface helps to support the collaboration of critical information between mobile network operators and the UTM ecosystem for safe drone operations.

To support Project XCelerate, BT provides a communications channel incorporating TEOCO’s AirborneRF platform. AirborneRF assesses the flight path to ensure the drone can maintain adequate and continuous cellular coverage for every flight. It also assures minimum performance-based requirements and live information during flight operations, to cope with the dynamic behaviour of the cellular infrastructure. In addition, AirborneRF proactively monitors and logs communications signal performance across the entire flight path. If there is any risk of degradation in service, it provides alerts to the Altitude Angel Guardian UTM system allowing the platform to identify alternative routes that can then be presented to the end operator.

In summer 2021, the project will conduct flight trials along the 8km-long zone to demonstrate how drones can operate safely in the same airspace as manned aviation. The consortium will demonstrate key industry use cases across healthcare, emergency services and infrastructure to illustrate how drone deliveries and inspection can benefit business, the public sector and UK citizens.

Thomas Neubauer, VP Business Development at TEOCO stated “We have created a standardized interface for seamlessly connecting the MNO with the UTM ecosystem. We consider this a major step towards the deployment of BVLOS drone services across the UK at scale”.

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