January 4, 2022
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Remote Operations, the next stage of BVLOS

Percepto Remote Operations

Operating aircraft from remote locations, as far away as the other side of the country, is the next step in BVLOS, letting companies everywhere evolve their transport, surveying and monitoring capabilities. When you picture remote drone operations you probably think of rows of people in a dark room, eerily lit by the glow of their computer monitors performing counter espionage. As the possibility of remote operations finds its legs in Australia, we can assure you that all these control centres will be adequately lit and full of comfy and ergonomic chairs – a pleasant place to go about your day-to-day flights.

At HoverUAV we have pioneered a new type of BVLOS application, letting Australian customers access remotely operated aircraft for a range of industrial, government and commercial operations. With industry partners providing a new solution to drone users all over Australia – the Drone-In-A-Box.

With a Drone-In-A-Box solution and a remote operations centre, end-users will be able to set up several stations around their operating area and then remotely start, monitor, and gain insight from a variety of automated missions, all while having the option of manual control.

What is a Remote Operations Centre?

A ROC (Remote Operations Centre) could be as simple as a fold-out table under a cover to run missions in the field, or a dedicated office space hard-wired into a network of bolted-down drone stations. In short, it’s where flights are operated from and is usually set up exclusively with the comfort of the operators in mind.

ROCs are built around running your entire mission without the operator needing to physically see the drone and that idea informs the technology and set up within. Stations are equipped with multiple monitors, control hardware and communication technology to support safe operations of remote equipment. In addition, every system should also have a redundant back up to ensure safe operations. As part of building a space where operators will remotely run missions all day, that space needs to be treated with the HMI (Human Machine Interface) as a consideration. This means your pilots need to be working at a comfortable temperature, noise, and light level. The computer they interface also needs to support their work, meaning the physical set up complies with workplace health and safety recommendations for comfort and injury prevention, and the software set up needs an intuitive and well-thought-out user interface to prevent stress and confusion while flying their missions.

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SNbxLoelVRQ%3Fwmode%3Dopaque

How do you set up a Remote Operations Centre?

ROCs are really a marriage of hardware and software. Firstly, you need to have your drone set up somewhere else for its mission. With Drone-In-A-Box (DIAB) technology, you can set up your drone on site, ready to run missions and then return to the box to charge. This is ideal for places where you want to run repeated missions, like inspecting sensitive and hard-to-reach hardware or getting daily data on an infrastructure project. Anywhere where you think you’ll benefit from consistent data coming in, a Drone-In-A-Box will work for you.

Once your drones are out in the field, the software that runs the ROC takes centre stage. This is what enables pilots to conduct their remote missions, as well with the right tuning, automate missions to run at specific times. For instance, you might want to inspect your site every few hours along the fence line or schedule a monthly close-up inspection of a specific piece of infrastructure like a bridge or powerlines. Choosing the right software is key to enabling your missions.

What Approvals were required?

Getting in the air and flying BVLOS requires some extra steps to a standard exemption granted by CASA. Starting with the basics you’ll need a ReOC and RePL pilots, but your pilots will need a little extra too. They’ll need to also hold an IREX qualification from CASA to operate BVLOS. While IREX qualifications are easy to find amongst commercial crewed pilots, they’re a bit harder to come across in RePL holders because they’re only specifically required for BVLOS and EVLOS Class 2 Operations.

You’ll need to update your ReOC with a full suite of BVLOS procedures specific to each site or area you intend to operate in. This will need to include information about the RPAS and BVLOS system as well. As part of getting this BVLOS approval a SORA will be required to understand the safety implications for your area of operation and with it KMLs and maps of the area, and a full Emergency Response Plan for each site. Back at your ROC you’ll also need a detailed HMI assessment to ensure your ROC will adequately support your pilots and in turn safe flying. For assistance with what you need to provide when putting together a BVLOS application, check out HoverUAV’s BVLOS approval checklist.

AAUS Webinar Series BVLOS – A Practical Guide, Jackie Dujmovic and Nicola MacPhail, Hover UAV from Greg on Vimeo.

Choosing the right software

Right now, the field of automated drone operations is still emerging and there a host of fleet-management software options. The biggest focus in the field is on using AI to help automate flight and the data you get back. Most options will also either rapidly upload the raw data you for processing or offer to process it straight from the drone and deliver the processed data to you.

You can watch our CEO Jackie Dujmovic provide a practical guide to BVLOS and discuss different software options for powering your operations for AAUS, FlyNow or Unleash Live.

Choosing the right hardware

Just like software, it’s all about enabling your mission so you need to pick a Drone-In-A-Box solution that will feed back the data you need. There are a variety of options on the market currently and Hover UAV has recently put Percepto’s offering to the test in Australia for BVLOS approval.

The Percepto Air Max Drone-In-A-Box solutions offers a dual set of 24MP RGB and Radiometric Thermal cameras and comes in a rugged weather-proof box that features hurricane-5 level wind resistance and a built-in weather station.

There are a multitude of DIAB providers, including companies like Heisha and IDiployer who adapt DJI drones for DIAB operations and companies that make DIAB options for their own drones like Autel. Picking a DIAB to suit you can be a challenge with the variety of hardware on the market. Here at HoverUAV we can help you to research what hardware and insights could suit your operation.

 

What’s the benefit of moving to Remote Operations Centres?

Using a ROC as opposed to traditional drone operations opens a range of new possibilities for business. By building a solid ROC you can apply the advantages of one-to-many, AI driven missions and automation to your aerial operations all while greatly improving the comfort and ease of operations for your pilots. It also lets you reconsider the costs of deploying resources to each site on multiple occasions.

By setting up your DiaB to a fixed location, you eliminate the lengthy travel and expensive resource management of moving aircraft around. You can also keep your highly skilled staff in one location and let them operate flights at many locations across the country all without the need to travel. You can even start to request data and flights in real-time to help you reach business decisions as their needed, not days after issues arise.

The challenges of remote operations

Much like any emerging technology there’s some challenges to overcome setting up a ROC. Finding pilots with remote operations experience and qualifications can be a bit of search in Australia. Regulators are still gathering data and approving operations one at a time, so expect in-person and thorough document assessment when trying to set up a ROC.

Depending on where you want to operate you may also have trouble establishing a low-latency link back to your ROC. This is where the limitations of Australia’s current LTE network come into play. While 4G coverage is typically fast enough, and 5G is rolling out around Australia, the bigger issue is where that coverage is. With vast areas of Australia untouched by mobile coverage where you can deploy may be determined by if you can get an internet connection on site.

At Hover UAV we’re pleased to announce our own recent sign off for our Remote Operations Centre with our partner, Percepto. The experience of working with regulators to clearly outline the requirements for these operations and demonstrate a safe and well-thought-out approach to remote operations has set us up to seek more remote operations approvals in new and exciting fields and applications. You can read more about this recent approval here.

If you would like to learn more about Drone in the Box or gaining Remote Operational BVLOS Approvals contact the team at info@hoveruav.com.au

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