Part 2: The $45 Billion Dollar commercial UAV BVLOS challenge
…if your Connectivity solution can pass Regulatory approval
The commercial UAV BVLOS challenge…
In Part 1, we discussed the opportunity within the emerging multibillion-dollar commercial UAV/BVLOS opportunity.
Any industry poised for explosive growth has a proportional volume of challenges for those companies looking to thrive within the opportunity. For UAV BVLOS, those challenges lie within regulatory approval.
The most critical factor in obtaining regulatory approval is demonstrating the supreme reliability of your platform. Regulators have already demonstrated their attention will be focused on command and control operations with virtually unbroken connectivity during commercial BVLOS flights.
Established and emerging commercial BVLOS operators and suppliers have been tireless in their search for technologies that provide uninterrupted and redundant connectivity – but their search has been compounded by a multitude of related factors.
These factors include connection type, bandwidth availability, and of course the relative costs. Not to mention the cost, weight, and battery consumption of the connectivity enablement technology.
From VLOS to BVLOS…
The most common connectivity solutions are Radio Frequency, Cellular, and Satellite.
Radio Frequency is not viable for expanding commercial BVLOS operations; Cellular connectivity is viable, provides the necessary bandwidth and costs do not cannibalize healthy profit margins. Cellular connectivity, however, poses reliability issues with potential cellular provider connectivity low zones or dead spots during BVLOS missions. Satellite is a viable option, has excellent range, but is hampered by latency, and more critically the expense to profit ratio associated with Satellite makes it functional, but prohibitive for main connectivity.
The cellular opportunity
Cellular, therefore, poses the best option, but regulators consider a single cellular connectivity link as perilous. According to regulators, UAV/Drones must possess a failover option, which means that single link-based commercial operations are unacceptable. Even leveraging the highly anticipated 5G networks present unsurmountable short-term issues and long-term risks. In fact, 5G isn’t expected to be readily available to support commercial BVLOS flights at scale for years. This will hinder growth for commercial BVLOS operators tremendously. Even as coverage grows, 5G tower to UAV will experience interference, which is more probable than possible. A loss of connection will be critical in its results, which means regulators will not see single link 5G connectivity as a reliable and therefore a certifiable option.
The definitive challenge to overcome is clearly connectivity; reliable, redundant, cost-effective, and regulatory approved.
In Part 3, we discuss the connectivity solutions available today, and those engineered for the scale and growth of tomorrow’s $45Billion BVLOS industry.
Written by Scott Jonasz
VP Global Sales & Alliances, Elsight