Verizon subsidiary Skyward has reached an agreement to test cellular connected drones with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under a Memorandum of Understanding.
The memorandum represents a further expansion of the Skyward business. The company had recently signed agreements with United Parcel Service and had worked with the FAA during last year’s wildfires.
The Memorandum of Understanding, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—Cellular Technologies to Support UAS Activities,” calls for the FAA and Skyward to work together to determine the capabilities of cellular communication networks for command and control (C2) within the National Airspace System.
Safety data will be one of the key components of the three-year research project, which also will propose standards for operations. Standards may include beyond virtual line of site (BVLOS) and commercial wireless spectrum considerations. Skyward and Verizon will be using the collected data for discussions on C2 and BVLOS operations in the FAA’s BVLOS Advisory and Rulemaking Committee.
Most commercial drones currently use unlicensed spectrum, which is restricted in range and subject to interference, limiting its use for complex operations. By instead using Verizon’s 4G LTE capabilities, the drones are expected to be protected from interference that can be an issue in using unlicensed spectrum, according to the company..
“Cellular-connected drones play a critical role in enabling tomorrow’s safe, reliable, and secure drone operations,” said Matt Fanelli, Skyward director of strategy and operations, in a prepared statement about the Skyward FAA agreement. “We are thrilled to be laying this foundation with the FAA and are confident that our efforts will help inform technical standards from which industry regulations authorizing low-risk BVLOS and one-to-many operations will flow.”