The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) estimates that in 2023 there will be 823,000 commercial drones in the US providing new service such as inspection of large infrastructure, delivery of goods or agricultural services. These services can only be accomplished cost-efficiently with autonomous drones flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), which leads to the necessity of a ubiquitous and dependable connectivity between ground station and drones. According to NASA, the so-called “command and control (C2) link must be highly reliable and robust” to exchange most critical autonomous drone information, such as the current drone position or the command to abort a mission. The C2 standard states that a link shall not exceed 0.001% of undetected error, a demanding requirement for wireless communication links. A suitable C2 link is mainly needed to connect autonomous drones to Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems and prevent crashes between drones and helicopters or airplanes in low altitude airspace. Furthermore, the recently published FAA rule-making on identification information for drones (so-called Remote ID) also requires a suitable communication technology. Our conversations confirmed that connectivity is a key problem and that the performance of current solutions does not meet the high aviation requirements. Solutions based on satellite communication permit global coverage, but are expensive to operate. 4G-LTE has a limited coverage area and can only provide best effort latency or best effort bitrate. 5G might provide suitable links in the future, but its complete deployment will take an unknown number of years.
Veccnet offers failsafe connectivity to autonomous vehicles operating beyond visual line of sight. At the core of Veccnet is an innovative technology (patent pending), which leverages the prioritized voice channel for reliable and low-latency drone communication. The solution uses any mobile network infrastructure (2G/3G/4G/5G) to deliver 95% of the world with superior C2 connectivity at lowest operational costs. In parallel and upon network availability, the solution also provides high-bandwidth data channels to exchange video and other sensor data. To further increase reliability of the C2 link and to meet highest aviation requirements, the system can establish parallel links to complementary network providers or rely on a cost-efficient satellite link using the proprietary telemetry compression. This multi-redundant communication system is developed in close collaboration with leading UTM service providers and offers an integrated service to the emerging commercial drone market.