Over the next 20 years, more drones are expected to join existing air traffic, offering commercial benefits but posing significant challenges to safety and security as the number of flying objects jumps from tens of thousands to millions, noted Thales Group. This will likely to lead to stricter civilian regulations for registration and identification of unmanned aerial systems or UASes. They will govern how operators plan missions, receive flight approvals and identify and track drones securely.
Thales today announced that it is working with the state of North Dakota to enable beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations. The Paris-based company said it is integrating surveillance, communications, and cloud-hosted traffic management services for a “first of its kind safety-oriented, system-of-systems solution.” Key site implementation will validate infrastructure requirements and procedural needs to ensure routine, safe, and secure UAS airspace integration, Thales said.
Thales said it invests in “deep tech” innovations in connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and quantum technology to benefit society. The company, which has 83,000 employees in 68 countries, provides systems and services to help its customers in the defense, aerospace, transportation, and digital identity and security markets.
Thales completes preliminary design review
Thales said it has successfully completed the preliminary design review for the key site implementation of Vantis, the statewide UAS network for BVLOS operations in western North Dakota. The company will deploy surveillance and communications infrastructure in the greater McKenzie County area as part of the network. The sensors and communications network will support mission and network operations.
The company plans to integrate new and existing infrastructure into a cloud-based traffic management software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform at the Vantis mission and network operations center at the Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, N.D.
The Thales TopSky UAS Traffic Management (UTM) platform is a cloud platform blending field-proven air traffic control technologies with national, regional, and local data to facilitate real-time situational awareness, according to the company.
UTM system to support public, commercial drone applications
The TopSky UTM system will also support proactive health and status monitoring to deliver the security, resilience, availability, affordability, and flexibility required for tomorrow’s advanced aviation applications, Thales claimed. It will benefit users of both public and commercial use cases such as drone delivery, inspection, and other services, the company said.
Thales added that its global experience as a large-scale systems integrator and its open aviation platform will enable it to work with North Dakota companies and strategic partners to deliver the statewide network. These partners include Airspace Link, Appareo, Botlink, Terma, uAvionix, and Verizon Skyward.
The company said it “is actively engaged in the operational and technical challenges of UAS integration into the global airspace system.” Thales is leading projects with local, regional and national authorities such as the state of New York, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne in France to address the challenges presented by new airspace users.
“North Dakota’s Statewide UAS Network, known as Vantis, is truly the first of its kind,” stated Alan Pellegrini, CEO of Thales USA. “This robust network, that safely and securely integrates UAS into the national airspace, will serve as an enviable model and the catalyst for broader commercial UAS operations for years to come, as it relies on a complete solution addressing the FAA’s safety risk management process.”