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Emerging system concepts for unmanned aircraft system command and control via satellite

Communication system

Project duration: 2011 to 2012

Project manager: Radek Záruba

Today, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) fly exclusively in segregated airspace. Their communication link encompasses both payload data and Command & Control flows. When beyond the radio line-of-sight, they use mainly Ku-band satellite communications, often through commercial satellites, which are utilized thanks to transponder lease schemes. In the near future, all civil and military UAS applications will require access to non-segregated airspace at some point in the flight pattern. As such, a seamless integration into the air traffic system, with an equivalent level of safety as a manned aircraft must be achieved. A key driver is the ability to ensure safe and secure communications between the Remote Pilot Station (RPS) and controlled aircraft. For these types of communications the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) recommends the use of aeronautical safety spectrum, acknowledging how crucial they are for the safe integration of UAS within non-segregated airspace. European Space Agency ESPRIT project objectives can be summarized as follows:

  • Propose a preliminary satellite system design for UAS C2 (Command & Control) link taking into consideration the requirements coming from current regulation and certification policies and standards at European and International level.
  • Develop a business case analysis from the UAS C2 service provider perspective, and an analysis of the operational concept of the satellite system.
  • Taking into account the status of the regulatory studies and the preliminary system design for UAS C2 defined in the frame of this project, define an action plan and actively contribute towards the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 to ensure a globally harmonized spectrum for UAS safe operation in non-segregated airspace.

Honeywell significantly contributed to all these activities and this project successfully addressed all assigned goals.


The company has a long history of successfully managing and executing complex space and aerospace programs, from design, development and testing to manufacturing and product support. The company provides high quality products that contribute to the mission success of many space platforms worldwide. Our Research and development capabilities within the EU are concentrated in our Advanced Technologies Europe (ATE) organization located in Brno, Prague (both CZ) and Toulouse (F) where our scientists and engineers are focused on advancing aerospace and space technologies. Working closely with engineers from across Honeywell, new technologies created by our ATE organisation are developed for productionization and ultimately rolled out to the aerospace industry.

What would you name as main benefits of the project to you and your company?

“Honeywell, as a world leading company in satcom avionics, aims to extend its broad satcom portfolio by developing technologies for future requirements in UAS satcom communication. Participation in the ESPIRIT program is therefore a logical step in new avionics product development. This project helped to demonstrate ATE capabilities and consequently opened the space for future opportunities. An important part of ESPRIT project activities was also Honeywell’s participation on legislation and technical standards development completed in EUROCAE working groups focusing on C2 standards and European - US cooperation.”