Flight Plans: Putting Focus On Mission Systems

With a 28+ year heritage providing world-class modeling and simulation tools to aerospace and defense systems engineers, it’s no surprise that we rely heavily on AGI’s Systems Tool Kit to solve some really difficult problems. Thanks to its ability to quickly model flight routes and payloads such as imaging sensors, GPS receivers, RF equipment, and other mission critical components, STK let’s us dig into the analytics necessary to plan safe, efficient, and optimized missions.

Communications UAV GCS Image
UAS Ground Control Station Communications Modeling

We have been exploring how some of our legacy mission planning tools can be used for commercial UAS applications.  STK’s history in this area has been mostly involved with military and defense applications, and we realize that some of the same issues exist between both commercial and military operators (line-of-sight, radio communications, GPS quality, sensor performance, etc.).


The first step in thinking about how to apply these tools to the commercial UAS community involves understanding how operators are currently planning and conducting their missions, and how they may be eventually expected to plan for missions beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).  It is important to be able to model the systems involved and produce analytical results that can help operators make better decisions faster!  Some of these systems may include:

  • GPS/NAV Systems – Ability to accurately predict positions of the various GNSS satellite constellations such as GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO/SBAS/Etc. and look closely at the metrics that an operator may want to know.  Answering questions like ‘How many satellites can I expect to have available during this flight?’ or ‘What kind of positional accuracy can I expect for this flight?’ can help reduce uncertainty and minimize risk during an operation. (See: How GOOD is my GPS)
  • Communications Equipment – Modeling the radio equipment that may be involved during operation with the ability to define properties like frequency, power, data-rate, polarization, modulation, and even modeling the specific antenna types that are involved.  By modeling these systems, we can look at potential issues with command/control links, telemetry issues, or even potential interference sources and how to correct or minimize these issues. (See: Drone Communications Analysis)
  • Terrain Considerations – This is a fundamental aspect to any flight plan not only in terms of maintaining separation from terrain but from visibility aspects for maintaining line-of-sight between an operator and an aircraft.  Terrain also plays an important role in RF propagation effects when analyzing communication links.
  • Airspace – Some areas are restricted from UAS operations while others may require prior authorization.  The ability to overlay maps of this data becomes valuable for mission planning efforts. (Interactively Explore Airspace Maps)
  • Sensor Payload Modeling – Onboard sensors may be as straight-forward as cameras with a visual field of view being defined or more complex such as EOIR packages.  Modeling these capabilities provides a quick-look at how effective the planned/proposed mission may be at collecting the required data.

As a highlight of some of these capabilities, this video shows how planning a simple survey/data collection mission can benefit from systems-level modeling and analytics associated with the performance and reliability of those systems.


For more information about how OneSky is using commercially available engineering analysis tools for flight plan safety, visit www.onesky.xyz



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