Worldwide communications for your UAV - using satellites

Cobham have recently released their "Aviator 200 UAV" - a satellite datalink system specifically made for small UAV's.

Although you'll likely need deep pockets to afford one, it shows that the satellite communications industry has realised there is a market for small UAV's that require beyond-line-of-sight communications. As more manufacturers come onboard the competition should start driving the price down.

Specifications:

Weight: 1.45kg

Dimensions: 24x16x6cm

Datarate: up to 200kbps

Coverage: near-global (uses the INMARSAT-4 satellites). Does not cover the Arctic/Antarctic regions.

Power usage: 28W

By having this sort of technology, operating small UAV's over longer ranges become much more practical and safer, via the presence of a reliable and high-bandwidth datalink that is not range constrained.

Manufacturer's brochure: https://www.cobham.com/communications-and-connectivity/satcom/cockp...

Views: 2095


Developer
Comment by davidbuzz on February 21, 2016 at 1:25am

weights more than my entire drone.  :-)

Comment by JB on February 21, 2016 at 3:23am

And is nearly bigger, and uses more power....28W? :-(

Stephen I'm wondering how much it costs to buy and run, and also what sort of latency can be expected end to end?

Thx.

Comment by Stephen Dade on February 21, 2016 at 7:31am

The size/weight/power consumption are close to 1/3 of the previous generation of satellite terminals, so it's a good start. I realise you'll probably still need a decent sized UAV to haul it into the air.

The major advantage of this system is the datarate - it's unheard of to get 200kbps over a satellite from a terminal of this small size (live streaming video anyone?). If datarate isn't a major concern, you can use a satellite phone (<1kg) to get a 9.6kbps datarate.

Latency would be in the order of ~1-3sec. I don't know the exact cost, but I suspect it'd be in the $20000-$50000 region. Monthly costs would vary widely depending on your usage scenario.


Developer
Comment by John Arne Birkeland on February 21, 2016 at 8:11am

Check and egg problem. Drones large enough to carry this system in addition to normal payload, most likely are from big commercial players that already have a working long range solution.

Comment by Joshua on February 21, 2016 at 6:13pm

For something like a 3m wingspan Mugin, this platform would fit well.

Comment by Andrew Legg on February 23, 2016 at 2:08pm
Hi guys,

Disclaimer up front......I work for Cobham and am responsible for this product. I picked up this thread and am willing to contribute to explaining the product as well as answer a few questions.

Intent with this product is as a gap filler between small low throughput Iridium systems and larger high bandwidth systems. It is targeted at aircraft with longer durations and of course appropriate payload capability. Primary application will most likely be C2 with some potential sensor data payload. Latency is as per geosynchronous satellites so about 1.5 seconds per out and back trip. Power consumption is 28 vs 76 Watts and weight is 1.45 vs 6.5 to 7kgs for the current generation equivalent, so about a third of the power and about 75% weight savings. That opens a lot of doors! It makes Inmarsat a viable datalink technology on much smaller airframes than ever before. Of course there are limits to anything :-) Pricing ...... Well, let's say it's in line with other components on the target platforms, so whilst Stephen is going a bit too low, he's not going to high.

Any questions......just shout.

Cheers,

Andrew
Comment by JB on February 23, 2016 at 7:45pm

Thanks for the info, that is good to know for future reference.

What are the data prices like to operate such a device?

Although I can agree the size and power consumption is much more appropriate for UAVs that are big enough to also achieve that sort of range (which in turn justifies sat comms!), the purchase price is way beyond what typical DIY's would be able to afford. Sadly that means that it's unlikely you'll find any sales here. :-(

In the mean time I'll stick with a $20 4G USB dongle with better throughput and lower operating costs. 

Regards

Comment by Andrew Legg on February 23, 2016 at 10:31pm
Hey JB,

Data prices range but would typically be about $6 to $7 per Mb. It varies depending on your usage and plans you buy. I can understand that the unit is not appropriate for DIY folks, but I'm not here to sell it. I saw the discussion when I was looking at the press release coverage and thought I'd pop in and offer to answer any questions interested people may have. I'm not a DIY drone guy either, although I do have a very small 4 channel helicopter that I usually end up flying to the bottom of my swimming pool! :-(

Cheers
Comment by Stephen Dade on February 24, 2016 at 3:54am

Thanks for the information Andrew! I'm a satellite engineer for my day job, so I have a natural interest in satellite comms to small UAV's.

Looking around the (non-DIY) industry, there's definitely demand for communications for UAVs in remote areas, particularly from a safety point on view.

Comment by Andrew Legg on February 24, 2016 at 6:50am
I certainly hope so Stephen! :-) What part of the industry are you in if I may ask?

Comment

You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

© 2017   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service