While UAV’s continue to reshape the theater of war, they are also finding more and more non-military applications, from gathering atmospheric data to delivering supplies to remote villages. Now Aerovironment is examining the potential for its UAVs to rapidly re-establish communications when existing communications networks are knocked out following a natural or man-made disaster.

Aerovironment will demonstrate using its family of portable, hand-launched small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for creating an airborne communication relay. The individual aircraft, which include the RQ-11B Raven, Wasp AE, RQ-20A Puma and Shrike VTOL, are small enough to be transported in a backpack or vehicle and can be in the air in less than five minutes. Depending on the model, the unmanned aircraft, which are operated via a hand-held control unit, can fly for between 45 minutes and two hours.

The demonstrations are being conducted for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture (DACA) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) proceeding, which aims to ensure communications can be restored rapidly in the event of a disaster.

To enable hand-held public safety and emergency response radios to communicate with one another over long distances and beyond-line-of-sight without the need for ground-based antennas or repeaters, the unmanned aircraft will carry off-the-shelf communication relay equipment. This is in addition to Aerovironment’s Digital Data Link (DDL) component that enables encrypted, beyond-line-of-sight voice, video, data and text communication through each unmanned air vehicle and ground station.

“AeroVironment’s small UAS have proven themselves to be reliable, rugged, and cost-effective lifesaving tools for troops on the frontline,” said Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “We are seeing only the beginning of the utility these tools can deliver to military and non-military users. By demonstrating how small UAS can also provide instant communications capabilities we hope to help the FCC and industry envision valuable new applications of our technology to preserve lives, property and resources.”