NOAA has placed an order with Black Swift Technologies (BST) to develop a GPS-denied navigation that enables Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for drones to operate in GNSS-denied environments.
NOAA has nearly 95,000 miles to cover the home coast – and while drones are by far the best way to complete the mission, flying within line of sight (VLOS) makes the mission time consuming and less efficient than it could be. To complete the mission under the restrictions of VLOS aerial drones, operators must work in 2-mile increments, according to a press release from BST: NOAA’s contract with BST “develops economically viable technology that refused a GPS Enables navigation by UAS – a technology that is critical to enabling long life “Distance Beyond Line of Sight (BVLOS)” makes sense.
“The activation of the BVLOS operation in the national airspace system is largely a problem of improved recording,” explains Dr. Jack Elston, CEO of Black Swift Technologies. “Both government and commercial operators want to carry out missions over longer distances. These users represent a range of applications currently underutilized due to capabilities and regulations for UAS applications such as aerial imaging, environmental observation, precision farming, and infrastructure monitoring and inspection. “
Precise information on the aircraft position is essential for safe UAS operation in the UTM (Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management) system. Unfortunately, the primary system that provides position information is GPS, a single point of failure in the system that results in interference and spoofing, as well as onboard failure or poor signal quality in places like urban canyons, at high latitudes, or at high altitudes.
The solution could be the “Global Positioning System (DS-GPS) with various sources” from BST. DS-GPS provides drones with accurate position updates in GPS-denied areas “through expanded sensor suites and advanced machine learning capabilities,” says BST.
DS-GPS uses a standard GPS receiver that has been enhanced with the use of additional acquisition functions to estimate inertial velocity and absolute position. With this information, the vehicle can determine when the GPS signal is being affected by either spoofing or environmental factors. Other sensors, including cameras and a software defined radio, can then be used to replace GPS as the primary navigation sensor, providing position and speed estimates from various sources.
“Black Swift Technologies has worked with NOAA in particular in the past to provide systems that can be used for both coastal and atmospheric sciences,” says Elston. “Working on this SBIR is a natural extension of the machine learning-based techniques that BST has developed for unmanned aircraft. One of the key technologies of this work is the use of image processing (both optical flow and SLAM) to allow safe flight of the UAS in the event of a GPS loss. Work related to the inspection and mapping of the coastline would benefit significantly from BVLOS operations as it would significantly reduce the time an operator has to spend on site. “
The work will be a huge benefit for NOAA – but it could be a game changer for the entire industry. Dawn Zoldi, CEO of P3 Tech Consulting and internationally recognized expert on drone law and policy, welcomes this latest development. “Through this partnership with NOAA, Black Swift will continue to contribute to the critical research and development department that BVLOS will advance the industry as a whole. What they do is novel and important. They take their early work with NASA and NOAA on machine learning and image processing techniques to the next level. The endgame is to provide a safe flight in the event of GPS loss. This type of resilient technology is the key to advanced, scalable, and repeatable operations – not just for government use, but for the entire commercial drone industry. “
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing on the drone industry, email Miriam.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.