Here it is: An innovative Drone Command Unit, designed and developed in partnership between heliguy™ and Venari.
The custom-modified Ford Transit Trail has a suite of integrated features, including live monitoring capabilities, remote satellite connectivity, drone-in-a-box integration.
It has been engineered to facilitate real-time UAS operations and enable operators to obtain mission-critical situational awareness.
Key features include:
The Drone Command Unit was unveiled at the Emergency Services Show, at The NEC, Birmingham, in September.
It follows the release of the UK’s most advanced Drone Support Vehicle last year.
The Drone Support Vehicle is a rapid response vehicle, whereas the new Drone Command Unit is designed for longer-form drone missions and drone-in-a-box operations.
heliguy™ will be using the vehicle on selected training courses.
Drone Command Unit: Features Breakdown
The Drone Command Unit (DCU) is a fully integrated command and control hub for multi-faceted enterprise drone operations. Let’s take a deep dive into its key features.
Dual Operator Workstation
The DCU features two operator stations.
Station 1 provides payload monitoring and remote recording capability, negating the requirement to record video to the drone.
The footage is recorded directly to MicroSD cards within the onboard recorder.
Payload control, together with secure two-way audio communications is achieved via DroneControl FirstResponder, presented onto either a 10” HD display, a 32” UHD display, or a 42” QLED TV – enabling commanders to gain mission-critical situational awareness.
DroneControl FirstResponder is a real-time live streaming and remote drone control software.
The footage from the UAS can also be live-streamed via other platforms such as MS Teams, Google Meets, and Zoom, depending on the workflow of the operator.
Station 2 provides overwatch for UAS safety, including real-time cloud-based weather forecasting, live operating site weather data (inclusive of data logger), independent onboard ADS-B and UTM integration.
This information is natively arranged onto 3 x 10” HD monitors and a 32” UHD monitor. The operator also has access to communicate with flight crew members via the digital UHF radio base station.
Each workstation has SecretLab Titan throne seating. The chairs have a custom storage mechanism for transit.
The DCU is equipped with Flat Panel Starlink ROAM, capable of providing Satellite Communications, even while on the move.
This provides robust and reliable data connectivity in remote locations, or where the cellular network is traditionally flooded, such as large public events. Starlink is complemented by a multi-network 5G cellular SIM, with failover managed by Peplink.
Within the main compartment, personnel welfare has been considered with the installation of a refrigerated cool box, microwave, and boiling vessel. With multiple storage options, all the associated ancillaries are housed within the vehicle safely.
The rear compartment houses DJI Dock, thanks to its lightweight cargo ramp, interior winch, and custom-made levelling trolley. There are also connection ports to supply Dock with network connectivity and dismountable petrol generators, compatible with the power requirements of Dock.
Venari has designed and fabricated a custom transportation and levelling system, which not only can be used to deploy the Dock on suitable surfaces but also mount and dismount Dock in the vehicle by winch, thus negating the need for manual handling.
This is used in complement to the manual load ramp, which can also be folded out to assist with cargo mounting and dismounted when not required.
The rear compartment also features a 43” UHD TV visible from the rear doors, enabling commanders to view the drone feed without interfering with the operation.
It has been designed for modular usage and robust equipment transportation. It features ample storage designed to house all equipment associated with drone operations.
The DCU is equipped with a DJI Aeroscope Mobile unit, with built-in antenna extenders, mounted on the roof.
The vehicle is powered by two 3000W petrol generators which can be linked together in series to provide the vehicle with 6000W peak power. Two 160W solar panels are also mounted on the roof rack to complement the generators and also provide a trickle charge to the vehicle while not in use.
The DCU is fitted with a Ludo outlet, which will safely eject the plug when the ignition is turned on to prevent accidental drive away whilst the charging cable is connected.
Night operations are a core capability of any UAS operator. As such, the van features a 360° white LED scene lighting, and a 50” front-facing light bar providing 16800 lumens.
The interior features selectable lighting options such as white light for day operations and red for night, ensuring Remote Pilots can allow their night sight to adjust to dark conditions.
The DCU has been designed to rapidly mount the DJI D-RTK 2 base station, providing additional redundancy when operating around sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI). Where precision data is required, the D-RTK 2 tripod is securely housed within the rear compartment storage system.
The vehicle is fitted with a comprehensive, rapidly deployable weather station, capable of providing the operator with mission-critical on-site meteorological data. This includes:
The station features a user-selectable audio alarm when wind conditions exceed the threshold, providing remote pilots with the knowledge when the weather conditions approach the operational envelope of the UA. It also features an integrated data logger, ensuring that data can be recalled in the event of an incident.
Drone Command Unit: An Innovative Solution For Drone Operations
Jack Sharp, DCU Project Manager at heliguy™, said: “The Drone Command Unit provides a fully integrated command and control hub for multi-faceted enterprise drone operations.
“It has been designed as a modular, adaptable, and connected vehicle which meets the needs of current and future drone operations, including real-time communications, airspace monitoring, data transmission and processing, and drone-in-a-box operations.”
Mark Brickhill, Managing Director of Venari, said: “The drone technology and capability that heliguy™ bring to our partnership is simply outstanding. Our command vehicle can simultaneously operate multiple drones for example for police to cover a football match, protest march, or hostage rescue by specialist firearms officers or the military.
“It can simultaneously stream critical information in real-time to a remote command headquarters and can also operate multiple drones even when flying at different locations. The potential civil applications for transport, infrastructure, and utilities companies are also significant – at a fraction of the cost of using helicopters. Just imagine the rapid surveying potential following the recent damage and flooding from storm Ciaran.”
Thomas Ingold, CEO and Founder of DroneControl, said: “We are delighted to partner with Venari and Heliguy on this ground breaking vehicle. Not only can the drone live feed be shared into the vehicle, using DroneControl FirstResponder the drone can be remotely controlled and then the feed securely shared to any other viewers. Our integration with what3words also significantly improves location sharing of subjects of interest.”