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Iridium and Blue Sky Network Supply Command and Control for Chevron Drone Surveillance Operation

By Rachel Jewett | May 15, 2024

AiRanger uncrewed aerial system (UAS). Photo: American Aerospace Inc.

Iridium and Blue Sky Network are supplying the satellite connectivity solution for an uncrewed aerial system (UAS) surveillance operation for oil and gas company Chevron

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted American Aerospace Technologies (AATI) a first-of-its kind waiver in early May to conduct uncrewed aircraft surveillance on behalf of the Chevron Pipe Line Company in the San Joaquin Valley in California. The waiver authorizes AATI to use the onboard detect and avoid system to comply with aircraft right of way rules when operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). 

The aircraft, AATI’s AiRanger UAS, will be used for routine oil and gas pipeline surveillance and inspections for the Chevron subsidiary. 

The AiRanger is connected to Iridium’s network through a Blue Sky Network solution. Blue Sky Network customized and integrated its SkyLink 7100 terminal on the aircraft. Connected by Iridium, Skylink 7100 provides continuous tracking and command and control (C2) capabilities for aviation and UAV operations.

AiRanger is the first UAS to demonstrate compliance with industry consensus standards for the detect and avoid system and meet FAA requirements for aircraft right of way BVLOS operations. Iridium said this waiver demonstrates that Iridium satellite C2 capabilities can meet the FAA’s large drone BVLOS waiver requirements, which could lead to more operations like this. 

“This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application,” said John Peterson, executive director of Aviation for Iridium. “When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers get together, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what’s possible with reliable satellite communications.”