This will give clarity to UAS manufacturers and the broader ecosystem in terms of what communications systems are fit for purpose for BVLOS. Currently, a number of solutions are using Wi-Fi, the 35 MHz frequency or other direct radio links, that cannot support longer distances and can be jammed.
It also signals that the impact of using those communications networks for UAS command and control, as well as video live feed and electronic conspicuity in the future, has been assessed and deemed manageable in terms of possible interference, degradation of their quality and availability for example.
The proposed licence is £75 per annum, which is manageable in the broader costing of BVLOS operations.
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OFCOM is proposing to introduce a new spectrum licence for drone operators, especially those looking to fly beyond visual line of sight using mobile or satellite technologies. The proposed Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Operator Radio licence would authorise the licensed operator to use a range of technologies on their UAS/drone fleet that are not currently permitted today, including:
mobile and satellite terminals for control and transmission of data and video; and
safety equipment to enable the UAS to avoid collisions and integrate safely into the UK’s airspace.
The proposed licence would cover a range of equipment that an operator may choose to use or be required to carry by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). If a licensee wishes to use a mobile technology that connects to a public mobile network they will need, before doing so, to obtain permission from the operator of the network they wish to use. We are proposing that the licence would be subject to an annual fee of £75.
The proposed licence would not replace the current licence exemption regime for low power 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz equipment which most drones on the market currently fall under today.