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EchoStar and SkyFive Demonstrate Satellite and Terrestrial Drone Command and Control With Airbus 

By Rachel Jewett | May 26, 2023

Industrial technology concept. Photo: EchoStar Mobile

EchoStar and aviation connectivity provider SkyFive completed a series of flight tests demonstrating dual satellite and terrestrial connectivity for command and control (C2) of a drone with Airbus. The tests are part of a project to commercialize urban air mobility within and between cities, using satellite and terrestrial connectivity. 

The tests were conducted with a drone from November 2022 to February 2023, near Munich, Germany, using a postage-stamp-sized air-to-ground (A2G) modem and service from SkyFive, paired with a Hughes 4510 S-band modem and satellite service from EchoStar.

SkyFive CTO Dr. Michael Ohm said this was the first time a drone was controlled over a C2 link from an A2G network and a satellite link at the same time. During the tests, telemetry data transmitted concurrently over the A2G and satellite transports. The satellite and ground connections operated simultaneously over the same S-band (2.1 GHz) frequency without interfering with each other. 

This performance is in line with dual-transport service according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) required communication performance (RCP) standards. 

“These demonstrations serve as an intriguing use case for future 5G non-terrestrial networks like the one EchoStar plans to develop in the S-band,” commented Telemaco Melia, vice president and general manager of EchoStar Mobile. “Thanks to the new 3GPP Release 17 standards, we’ll soon be able to put a single module into a remotely piloted urban aircraft for always on terrestrial and non-terrestrial 5G service – entering a new era of anytime, anywhere connectivity.”

Echostar recently tapped Astro Digital to manufacture a constellation of 28 Low-Earth Orbit satellites for S-band IoT services, and CEO Hamid Akhavan has said it is a “stepping stone” toward a wideband LEO-based 5G non-terrestrial network.