A world-first BVLOS communication system
CC’s multidisciplinary team has harnessed expertise in aerospace, telecommunications and the energy sector to help propel Flylogix to the next frontier of drone services development.
Propelling large-scale UAV adoption
PwC forecasts that drone adoption is worth up to £45 billion by 2030 in the UK alone. Two major barriers to adoption at scale, are safe BVLOS operation and cost. Both have been addressed by the innovation. Flylogix has pioneered use of their aircraft in offshore oil and gas operations. This safe and reliable new system of centralised control lowers the cost and accelerates the scale-up of operations. The move from local drone piloting at the airfield massively increases the operational scope and resilience of their services for a range of industries.
Safer, with reduced environmental impact
Flylogix addresses the inability of conventional point-to-point radio-based drone control systems to support remotely piloted aircraft systems for BVLOS operations. This makes UAVs a viable alternative to the crewed aircraft for a vast array of industrial services – which is costly and emits large amounts of carbon. If UAVs can replace these aircraft, they will help moving to a low carbon economy. Crewed aircraft operations, and in particular helicopters, also carry a high risk factor in many industrial scenarios because of harsh environmental conditions. With CC’s help, Flylogix is leading the charge.
Addressing the industry’s most critical challenges
Lifelong ambition becomes reality
This is a case study in collaboration between CC and Flylogix. In it we unravel a story that intertwines significant technical challenges with a very personal tale of a founder turning lifelong ambition into reality. We explore how the team unleashed the power of satellite communications and navigated a highly regulated environment to achieve industry transformation and global environmental impact. But first, let’s continue with an overview of the current status quo…
Low latency and highly reliable BVLOS control
The key challenge was to provide a centralised pilot with all the data required for safe and effective command and control of a drone in a timely and secure way. Apart from expensive military satellite systems , there was no low-cost solution available that met requirements. The team engineered a control system and communications link that delivered low latency and highly reliable control. This uses an innovative on-board communications gateway to access both low earth orbit satellite links and terrestrial radio.
Less cost than offshore helicopter operations
Centralising control enables Flylogix to scale the service more rapidly and reduce the cost. The facts are compelling. McKinsey says that offshore industries in the North Sea spend £2.3 billion on helicopter services. We estimate that helicopters cost five times more than the equivalent Flylogix service. Helicopter operations are one the highest risk operations offshore – which highlights the benefits of uncrewed aviation. The system also supports a number of further initiatives, including environmental monitoring, search and rescue, and remote delivery.
Making a difference to business and the world
CC worked closely with Flylogix’s founding partner Charles Tavner to build a highly credible business case to secure vital funding – from government agency Innovate UK. Charles grew up with a love of aviation and retains a lifelong vision to help society and the environment. As he puts it: ‘We want to use uncrewed aviation to make our world a better place’. The team leant into the cause, including the energy industry’s pursuit of net zero and the long-term future of mobility.
From strength to strength - helping transform the energy sector
In 2022, BP Ventures invested £3 million into Flylogix, which the company will use to expand to new geographies, including the US, Norway and Trinidad & Tobago. The company’s technology will play a critical role in driving down BP’s carbon intensity and achieve its aim of installing methane measurement on all existing major oil and gas processing sites by 2023. A 50% reduction in methane intensity across its operations is expected.
Introducing the ‘Intelligent communications gateway’
Collaboration in the face of the toughest challenges
We worked as an extension of Flylogix’s team, creating innovative approaches to overcome the longstanding challenges of BVLOS, whilst reducing risks across the project. To achieve resilient, mission-critical connectivity, the project had to vault a series of hurdles, including the many limitations of conventional comms networks; the various security challenges; and the size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints necessary to ensure functionality could be achieved without compromising performance.
Unique blend of technology expertise
This combination of performance, security and form factor requires a unique blend of expertise across a range of capabilities that includes RF systems, satcomms, electronic design and highly optimised embedded software. Drawing on a proven track record in technically challenging and mission-critical system design, we developed a solution that met all of the requirements, at a cost-point previously not achievable in the commercial uncrewed aerial vehicle sector.
The ‘intelligent communications gateway’
Our key role was to develop the ‘intelligent communications gateway’ – a complex and highly resilient wireless system that provides connectivity between the drone and central control. The bespoke (and industry first) system includes integration of satellite, LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity. It was built to strict SWaP and cost constraints, avoids self-interference, and can be embedded within different locations of the drone, thanks to its flexible physical design. We also optimised the placement of the antenna on the drone, all tested within our on-site RF anechoic test chamber.
Putting the Iridium satellite service to work
Using our experience as a core technology partner for global satellite communications leader Iridium, we engineered a novel satellite link into the intelligent communications gateway. This enables safe, commercial operations that extend over the horizon. We also completed Iridium compliance testing on behalf of Flylogix. This is the first time a drone service has been built on the new Iridium Certus 100 service. Its enhanced data rate and low latency service enables control of the aircraft, as well as telemetry flight data and video feeds that offer first person views from the drone.
Navigating a highly regulated environment
Flylogix excels in a highly regulated industry. Flylogix needs to secure Civil Aviation Authority approval for every mission, each of which is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. To gain approval, Flylogix must submit a robust overview on the technology to be used and a spotless track record. We helped bring a high level of credibility to these submissions, providing independent verification of test data to demonstrate just how well the system works.
"Having worked on Iridium projects I had a real interest in the new constellation. Implementing a full terminal for drone command and control that brought the benefits of the Certus service to a new market was a great experience."
Callum Wright, senior electronics engineer
"We worked with Flylogix for over two years so I was delighted to see them succeed in launching this new service, it actually felt very personal. It was a great moment realising that technology innovation will make a real impact in our pursuit of net zero."
Stewart Marsh, project lead
"To be part of a dynamic and multi-disciplined team that helped deliver such an impactful project for Flylogix - and the industry - gave me a real sense of pride. Delivering an industry first in controlling drones that go beyond visual line of sight - what a triumph!"
Maala Jhagra, project manager
"This project has been inspiring. Bringing the CC team together with Flylogix and Iridium has been the perfect example of how leaders in their respective fields can collaborate to create something truly unique that moves a whole industry forward - partnerships like this are where great things happen"
Frances Metcalfe, commercial director
"We worked very closely with Flylogix, creating a collaborative and trusted relationship that was critical to success. Seeing the services go live so quickly after working on the project was really rewarding."
David Wise, principal electronic production technician