Inmarsat powers world’s smallest UAV satcoms technology

16 June 2020: Inmarsat Partner Honeywell has launched its smallest, lightest satellite communications system yet for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), powered by our global satellite communications network.

The Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system provides UAVs with global connectivity and real-time video streaming. Weighing in at only one kilogram (2.2 pounds), the new system is 90% lighter than Honeywell’s smallest connectivity system and brings some of the same capabilities enjoyed by larger aircraft to smaller UAVs in the air or on land.

Seamless connectivity, delivered through our comprehensive satellite network, is essential for safe and efficient air traffic management that enables beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) capabilities.

UAV inspections

BVLOS allows unmanned aircraft to be operated remotely at scale, beyond the pilot’s field of view. This technology can be used for a variety of applications, including UAV inspections, where it is estimated to double or triple daily inspection capacity.

The combination of the Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system and our satellite connectivity means UAVs can remain connected even in remote areas or over water where other ground-based communications systems, such as 4G, are not available.

Amanda King, Vice President and General Manager, Aerospace Connected Secure Solutions, Honeywell Connected Enterprise said: “Transportation as we know it is changing rapidly and the need for connectivity is only becoming more important. As platforms evolve and new vehicles start operating both on land and in the air, it’s critical that satellite communications technology evolves alongside them.”

Customisable design

Traditionally, satellite communications systems have been available only for larger aircraft due to the large size, weight and power requirements. Now, with a new customisable design that’s 30% lighter than competing systems, Honeywell’s Small UAV SATCOM system can be installed in different locations on the vehicle to accommodate a wider range of platforms while ensuring safety of flight and avoiding unnecessary bulk.

“Honeywell’s small UAV SATCOM system is a game-changer for these smaller unmanned aircraft that previously couldn’t be equipped with satellite communications. Now, they’ve got access to everything we’ve come to expect from the large-aircraft experience — just in a smaller package,” adds King.

Business Insider Intelligence states that UAV market size is expected to reach $63.6bn by 2025 (up from $4.4bn in 2018). This impressive outlook is fuelled by the growing number of vehicles expected in the sector. At present there are 1.1 million UAVs flying and this is predicted to rise to 10 million by 2027 – a tenfold increase, according to the Teal Group’s World Civil Unmanned Aerial Systems 2019 Market Profile & Forecast.

Fast-growing sector

Inmarsat is uniquely positioned to act as a catalyst for the safe and rapid growth of the this fast-growing sector due to our state-of-the-art global satellite network, decades of experience in keeping aircraft safe through communication, navigation and surveillance services, and relationships with ATM providers worldwide,” said Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Director of UAVs & UTM.

“We also bring first-hand experience of working with international aid organisations to deliver emergency communications in remote areas.”