Push to Talk (PTT) radios were provided to each member of the participating flight teams. This allowed communication with the Airboss, communication between RPIC, LoadMaster, and VO, and communication with other flight teams. Channel 1 was assigned to the Airboss, the DroneUp Operations Manager, and the DroneUp CEO. Channel 3 was assigned to flight operations, particularly the communications between piloting teams and their VO’s in the field. Channel 5 was dedicated to facility logistics. Even channels were available to allow teams to have conversations without stepping on the communications of other teams. This convention was especially useful during Test 3 when multiple teams were flying and delivering at the same time.
The radio communication protocol was discussed during the project briefing and in each flight session briefing. The instructions included the following:
● Identify the party you want to talk to and then identify yourself prior to speaking your message. Example: “Green Team, Green VO. I’m in a position at target 2-1”. ● Keep radio messages concise. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Remember that while you are holding down the PTT button, only you can be heard across all the radios on that channel. ● Deliveries, take-offs, and landings take precedence on the radio. If you have a question or comment about something else, wait until the important communication has finished to key the PTT button. ● Under Part 107 rules, the RPIC cannot allow the drone to leave his visual line of sight until he receives confirmation that the VO has obtained a visual line of sight of the drone. So we established that the VO was to announce his visual acquisition of the drone as soon as he had acquired it and the RPIC was not to fly further until he had that confirmation. ● Methods used by the VO for directing the RPIC to the correct location above the target were varied. Some said, “Go forward 5 feet.” Others said “Slide right.” and then “Hold.” if the correction was more than a few feet and “Bump right.” if the correction was slight.
Role of the Airboss and Communications
DroneUp provided the Airboss for Operation Last-Mile. The Airboss was in charge of directing all flight takeoffs and landings and overall direction regarding weather, wind, which tests were to be run, when to break for meals, etc. Delivery drops were managed by the flight teams and their VOs without Airboss intervention. The directions from the Airboss came generally from the radio so that all personnel involved in the operation knew what was happening.
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