A pilot in Orlando, Florida completes the first commercial remote UAV flight

Jan. 15, 2021
Controlling a civilian drone from thousands of miles away mimics military use of drone technology

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, a pilot in Florida conducts a UAV in flight in Michigan and Verizon and UPS increase drone deliveries to The Village retirement community in Florida.

Red Cat, Fat Shark and Skypersonic complete long distance drone flight remotely

Red Cat Holdings Inc. has announced that Fat Shark, a wholly owned subsidiary, and Skypersonic, the manufacturer of the Skycopter UAV, partnered to complete a long distance drone flight remotely.

During the flight, a pilot located in Orlando, Florida controlled a drone flying in Detroit, Michigan. The flight integrated Fat Shark's new digital technology, "Shark Byte," with Skypersonic's Skycopter and remote pilot software system.

The pilot's flight instructions to the drone were transmitted through Skypersonic's servers, which are located in Italy. The companies believe this flight represents the first commercial completion of a remote flight similar to how drones are used by military forces.

“The ability to control the flight of a drone from thousands of miles away should accelerate the commercial adoption of drone technology, expand the number of business services that can be provided by drones, and lower travel and training costs for companies deploying drones.” explains Jeff Thompson, CEO of Red Cat.

“The combination of our recently launched Shark Byte digital system and Skypersonic's patent pending software platform provides video resolution that will enable pilots to navigate more safely and execute commercial flights that were not possible with an analog system.”

Greg French, founder and chief technology officer of Fat Shark, adds, “we were excited to work with Skypersonic to test the limits of our new digital technology. The combination of our Shark Byte 720p HD digital system and Skypersonic's latency-compensating flight assistance technology enabled the pilot to fly faster and more skillfully than expected.”

Verizon’s Skyward and UPS Flight Forward collaborating to bring drone deliveries to The Villages in Florida

Verizon’s Skyward and UPS Flight Forward have announced that they will collaborate to bring drone deliveries to The Villages in Florida.

The drones will run on Skywards’ drone management platform and use Verzion’s 4G and 5G networks.

In 2020, the companies worked together to develop and test drone deliveries using Verizon’s 4G network. The Villages in Florida, which is an adult retirement community with a population of more than 77,000, was the location for the deliveries.

During its time in existence, UPS Flight Forward has completed more than 3,800 drone deliveries. That number has increased drastically due to the global pandemic.

The companies say that the Verizon 5G network will have enough resources to manage multiple drones at once while operating different delivery jobs. After being dispatched from a central location, the drones will work with robots and electric delivery vehicles to complete their deliveries.

The network and drone management platform will allow hubs across the world to better monitor traffic moving in and out, especially as drones become more of a standard delivery method. During its CES 2021 announcement, Verizon shared that it will begin testing deliveries with its 5G network, to move away from 4G eventually.

“The low latency of 5G and edge compute is ideal for monitoring air traffic in and out of a busy logistics hub, especially those using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles like drones, trucks, and planes,” explains Mariah Scott, Skyward president.

“This year, we’ll be taking the collaboration with UPS further by testing 5G Ultra Wideband integrations to connect the sky.”

Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI

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