Telstra’s involvement with The Boeing Company & Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program is helping the development of new technology for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Mike Wright takes a look at what how this drone technology will change things up in air and on the ground.

Imagine soaring above the countryside being able to check on a farm or cattle station, inspect a mine site or monitor remote natural gas installations – all without leaving your office.

This is why we’ve recently partnered up with Boeing and the Queensland Government to take part in a major research project aimed to enable the safe and reliable operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) technologies by commercial and civil industries across Queensland.

So what exactly is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System?

Simply put – we’re talking about an aircraft with no physical pilot within the cockpit or as we all know it – a drone. Also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) the technology relies in a remote pilot to control the aircraft from a pilot station on the ground. Of course as with the operation of any aircraft, this system has to work in harmony with the wider aviation environment.

The project aims to develop cutting-edge technology for an improved airspace situational awareness prototype system (meaning the drones are “aware” of their environment and can respond accordingly – e.g. avoiding obstacles and so on) and will ultimately enable safe RPAS operation over a broad area, along with enhanced data analytics tools.

So how does Telstra fit in?

In a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Queensland Government, natural gas company QGC, and global aerospace giant the Boeing Company, trials will be conducted in Queensland. Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific, a locally-based enterprise specialising in unmanned RPAS systems will be providing industry and technical expertise and Telstra will round out the development with technology and infrastructure support.

The trials will be undertaken across the Surat Basin in Queensland and are expected to run for roughly 12 months. During this time, Boeing will need to have access to a reliable mobile network to provide the connectivity the drones need, and you guessed it …this is where Telstra comes in!

We will be providing 3G/4G dongles to Boeing to allow the use of our mobile network and this will enable them to provide data connections between sensors located on Telstra radio Towers and a ground station located in the trial area, which we also be providing access to.

Our engineers will be on the team to assist with the engineering, design and construction associated with the installation of sensors on our facilities and will offer support to Boeing and Insitu Pacific in discussions with other groups such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as the collaboration progresses.

We’re excited to be taking part in this amazingly innovative task and look forward to sharing the view from up here.

Image: Courtesy QGC.