Kongsberg Geospatial – an Ottawa, Ontario-based developer of real-time software for mapping, geospatial visualization and situational awareness – and the parademic services of Ontario’s Renfrew County have concluded field trials of an application to improve the safety of operating a search-and-rescue drone beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Kongsberg Geospatial says it has been providing display technology for military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms for over a decade and is now working with industry and regulatory groups in the U.S. and Canada to develop a portable, unified display for civilian UAV operators to provide spatial awareness for operating BVLOS UAVs.
On a tablet, the display technology integrates a variety of data sources to provide comprehensive information about the UAV, as well as other aircraft, airspace, obstacles and terrain.
Though the test team was restricted from actually operating BVLOS, they were able to simulate BVLOS conditions by having a second observer shadow the pilot operations and track the progress of the drone.
During repeated exercises over the course of the trial, James Power, a pilot from the county’s paramedic services, used the software to navigate the UAV and help direct teams of searchers to locations in a heavily forested nature reserve near Cobden, Ontario.
“We’re currently really constrained as to how far we can go with a drone – especially in forested areas,” says Power. “If we can extend the operating range of our drone, we can increase the speed and effectiveness of a search and help guide rescue teams to casualties in remote areas far more quickly.”
Allison Malloy, the program manager for the IRIS UAV platform at Kongsberg Geospatial, adds, “We’re pleased at the outcome of these trials, and we’re confident in our technology, but we still have additional research and development to do before this platform can be applied commercially, and there’s still a lot of regulatory work to do to get the necessary approvals.
“We’re actively engaged with Transport Canada, the [Federal Aviation Administration], and other regulatory and industry working groups, and we’re hopeful that the necessary regulatory framework to allow licensed drone pilots to work beyond line of sight will be put in place in the near future,” Malloy concludes.