Inmarsat has launched a satellite communications service for unmanned aircraft (UAVs) using a small terminal developed by Cobham Satcom. Using the 1.45-kg Aviator UAV 200 terminal, the SwiftBroadband Class 4 service, called SBB-UAV, provides up to 200 kbps of data for command and control and real-time image and video transfer in parallel.

Satellite communications are of increasing importance as the UAV industry works to enable beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations to increase the efficiency and economic attractiveness of using UAVs. Lugano Networks has conducted demonstrations using its hybrid terrestrial/satellite communications network to provide command of control beyond line of sight. The demos used Ligado’s SkyTerra L-band satellite, with its 22-meter reflector, and terrestrial L-band frequencies to communicate with AeroVironment’s Puma UAV using a small ViaSat terminal.

“Unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] is one of the fastest-growing markets for mobile satellite services,” says Shaun Flanagan, sales director at Aero-Satcom, a provider of military and government aeronautical satcom that has partnered with Inmarsat to launch the L-band SBB-UAV service.

According to Andrew Legg, regional director of sales at Cobham Satcom, the UAV 200’s low weight and applicability on even the smaller long-range UAV means “it is a true platform BVLOS capability multiplier.”