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UAV Navigation's GNSS-denied navigation capability ensures optimum performance for Alpha Unmanned Systems' helicopter UAVs

The majority of Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to maintain a stable position and/or to navigate between waypoints. Added to this weakness, any small drone system that relies exclusively on Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors to estimate aircraft attitude and which does not fuse data from other types of sensor may be vulnerable to GNSS jamming attacks. UAV Navigation's design philosophy is that the UAV cannot depend upon the availability of a GNSS signal; the system must be able to continue the mission even in a GNSS-denied environment.

When a flight control system is jammed, or operates in a GNSS-denied navigation area, the UAS no longer has access to positional information. With inferior systems, the only alternative is for the remote pilot to take manual control, making it likely that the mission will fail and, depending on the distance between the Ground Control Station (GCS), the UAV may be lost. As mentioned above, some systems may not even be able to maintain UAV stability and the aircraft will fall out of the sky.

This is a major weakness of many commercially available drone systems, and it is what has made jammers and other counter-UAV measures so popular in the industry.

Alpha Unmanned Systems selected UAV Navigation as its flight control system provider due to their requirement to include a robust GNSS-denied capability in their UAV helicopters Alpha-800 and Alpha-900 systems.

Thanks to UAV Navigation's VECTOR-600 autopilot, Alpha's platforms are able to continue a mission if the GNSS signal becomes unavailable or is jammed; the autopilot is able to estimate the UAV's position and follow a flight plan, or alternatively receive a command to fly to a designated area - including the landing site, even if the UAV is Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS). Of course the autopilot's sensor suite uses MEMS technology, so the system will accumulate navigation errors of up to 30 meters per minute; wind conditions may alter this figure, but the key point is that platform stability and control is maintained and the aircraft can be recovered.

Alvaro Escarpenter, COO at Alpha Unmanned Systems, states that: “Thanks to UAV Navigation's advanced dead-reckoning capability we can disable GNSS for a limited amount of time, or we can escape out of a jammed area, in order to correct our position and attempt to recover the GNSS signal; if the worst comes to the worst, then we know we will be able to save the UAV. This is an advanced feature only available to professional or military grade UAVs. If they lose the GNSS signal or it is jammed, commercial drone systems will start a controlled descent to the ground resulting in a failed mission and the potential loss of the aircraft.”

UAV Navigation military-grade autopilot can continue the mission even if subjected to Meaconing , Intrusion, Jamming and Interference (MIJI) attacks. The use of advanced algorithms to manage data from multiple sensors enables uncrewed aircraft to fly dead-reckoning operations.

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UAV Navigation is a privately-owned company that has specialized in the design of flight control solutions for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) since 2004. It is used by a variety of Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers in a wide range of UAV - also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or 'drones'. These include high-performance tactical unmanned planes, aerial targets, mini-UAVs and helicopters.