Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) commonly referred to as drones are the next frontier in aviation. The autonomous nature of drones present a unique challenge to ensuring safe operation among manned aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA has enforced strong regulations on the drone industry to ensure existing manned aircraft can continue to operate safely.
Many attribute the tight regulations to mechanical design issues that might arise without a human pilot to intervene. While this may be part of the problem the larger issue of concern is one that effects every mobile platform: communications.
TELEGRID has spent almost 40 years developing secure communications equipment both wired and wireless for the US Military. It is this background that allowed us to understand that the key to safe operation of autonomous aircraft is ensuring secure air to ground connectivity. We realized that drones should be designed by focusing on the communications aspect first. We knew our AeroGRID+ wireless mesh network, awarded an SBIR from the USAF, gave us a significant advantage in designing a drone that could be approved for safe operation in the NAS.
The heavy-lift DE-2020 multi-rotor hexacopter UAS is the outcome of that design effort.
Our background working with the DoD and other government agencies helped us engage the FAA early to certify the airworthiness of the DE-2020. Our efforts were rewarded when we were notified that we are only 1 of 10 drones the first round of FAA airworthiness criteria approvals. https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=96138
The next step was to create a package delivery service using the DE-2020 and Drone Express was born.