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UND Aerospace and NAL Research partner to develop advanced satcoms for drones

University of North Dakota Aerospace and NAL Research are collaborating on a project where NAL will provide the foundation with a suite of satellite and communication (SATCOM) products and services for its Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) Program.

The project will integrate and test command and control (C2) solutions for UAS platforms conducting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in rural and remote areas.

Together, UND Aerospace and NAL Research will validate new C2 technologies for UAS to safely operate both within the Federal Aviation Administration’s National Airspace System (NAS), and in conflict zones where traditional GPS signals may be jammed or spoofed.

The project will demonstrate how a variety of SATCOM solutions – including NAL’s Assured Position Navigation and Timing (A-PNT) offering for GPS-denied environments – can bridge the gap for UAS operations when ultra-high frequency (UHF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio communications are not possible or available.

Eric Waters, NAL Research director of aviation and UAS, says: “The capabilities of UND Aerospace to conduct rapid prototyping, utilizing UND Aerospace’s Gorman UAS Airfield, along with their close alliance with the FAA and the North Dakota UAS ecosystem make this a great collaboration.

“We are looking ahead to where this type of UAS operation, having a remote pilot in command and control, will be as safe and responsive as any crewed flight within the NAS.”

Paul Snyder, director of UAS operations and lead for UND RIAS for autonomous platforms, says: “NAL Research has a reputation for providing the most reliable and durable Iridium communication devices available, while UND Aerospace is an established pioneer in UAS Operations and Autonomous platforms.

“This project is a testament to our unwavering commitment to spearhead advancements and foster progress within the UAS Industry.”

NAL’s QuickSilver and SkyLink modems are being evaluated for use on the low Earth orbit (LEO) Iridium Certus 100 mid-band satellite network, providing a turn-key compact SATCOM solution ideal for UAS C2 and BVLOS connectivity anywhere in the world.

Once validated, NAL’s compact QuickSilver and SkyLink modems will be available for uncrewed systems (UAV/ UAS / USV / UUV), unattended sensors, remote C2, diagnostic monitoring, telemetry, and other data transport applications.

The project will begin this month, with the integration of NAL Research’s solutions into UND’s UAS. The testing will focus on Group 1-3 UAS platforms, a classification typically associated with non-military UAS.

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