Satellites support deployment of remote control drones in commercial airspace

May 31, 2013 // By Nick Flaherty
European defense and research companies have successfully demonstrated satellite control of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in commercial, non-segregated airspace, opening up wider use of such drones.

A demonstration involved the deployment of a Heron-1 RPAS controlled by satellite for maritime surveillance applications offshore Spain. The project demonstrated the safe operation of RPAS in non-segregated airspace using satellite communications. Several partners, such as the GUCI (Spanish "Guardia Civil") and AENA (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea), supported the project.
The demonstration was part of the DeSIRE (Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe) initiative, an ESA-EDA (European Space Agency-European Defence Agency) project which includes European headquartered satellite operator SES, together with partners such as ThalesAleniaSpace and AT-one (an European Economic Interest Group consisting of Dutch Aerospace Laboratory NLR and German Aerospace Centre DLR). The initiative follows another ESA study (ESA SINUE) during which SES was already partnering with INDRA, the Spanish information technology and defense systems company.
SES Techcom, a subsidiary of SES, has successfully supported satellite communication links using SES Ku-band satellite capacity to establish reliable command and control, Air Traffic Control and Mission data transfer.