Spanish UAV manufacturer Alpha Unmanned Systems is one of several UAV companies chosen to participate in Inmarsat´s UAV Pop-up lab. The satellite and communications giant is using the program to explore the value of satcoms in the commercial UAV sector.
Along with six other UAV companies, Alpha Unmanned Systems will execute a range of missions using Inmarsat´s global satellite network.
The Spanish company will integrate Inmarsat’s connectivity services using the Cobham AVIATOR UAV 200 terminal with its Alpha 800. The Alpha 800 is a gasoline-powered UAV that provides 3 hours of continuous flight with a 3 kg payload. It’s equipped with what Alpha describes as “the lightest and strongest airframe in its class and a military-grade autopilot with high precision GPS and sensors.”
The Alpha 800 was originally designed and built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Now it’s being used for other services, which include the delivery of medical supplies.
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BVLOS medical supply delivery
Several projects around the world are using drones to fly BVLOS and deliver life-saving medical supplies. The most notable is Zipline, which has been operating in rural parts of East Africa for a number of years now.
Alpha and Inmarsat are set to team up on a BVLOS mission to deliver urgent medical supplies in a limited/no radio-frequency coverage area. The mission will instead depend on Inmarsat satcoms to enable long-range control and real-time video streaming from the Alpha 800 tactical helicopter UAV.
The 3-hour flight time of the Alpha 800 means that a very large area can be covered. The test missions will have a range of up to 85 km.
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Working around poor terrestrial network coverage
Inmarsat´s satellite technology could radically shift UAV missions in remote areas with poor terrestrial network coverage or rough terrains where radio line-of-sight is hard to achieve. Through Inmarsat’s global L-band network, the Alpha 800 will be easily deployed to execute missions anywhere in the globe, making it ideal for humanitarian agencies and governments with a need for precision delivery of sensitive, time-critical cargo in remote areas.
Eric Freeman, CEO of Alpha Unmanned Systems said “Inmarsat´s satcom solution is great news for Alpha and our clients. Pilots can now execute longer missions, and in even more difficult terrain, while they themselves can be far from the Alpha 800 and its flight path.”
Jordan Picard, Digital Incubation Lead at Inmarsat, assured “We are delighted to work with companies such as Alpha Unmanned Systems to push the boundaries of innovation in the commercial UAV sector. We are especially interested in the Alpha 800 as a platform to deliver medical supplies in remote environments given its unique VTOL capability and now, its longer flight range enabled by satellite.”
A large-scale showcase event will take place on 30 May in London. Trial outcomes will be presented there will be debate with leading experts on key UAV industry topics.