If you have bought a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) it is likely that you have asked yourself this question – What happens if a drone goes out of range? You probably already know that UAVs are remotely piloted vehicles and can be flown from thousands of feet or from a further away base. They can be used for surveillance, telematics and even military operations. As with regular aircraft, a potential problem arises when they go out of range.
It could turn into a dog fight between the drone and the on-board aircraft if they happen to go out-of-range. UAVs are not very maneuverable so getting it back in line to swap the target with another UAV would be very difficult. You could try jamming the drone’s system or you could try to shoot it down. Of course, in such a tense situation, you would want to avoid either trying to shoot down the drone yourself or risk getting it shot down by other military aircraft.
If it were not a risky mission, your first priority should be to reconfigure the UAV to get back within easy visual range of your original point of origin. The UAV will have to re-point to a new point and would probably have to divert some of its flight time to get around your original point of origin. In the worst case scenario, the UAV might have to divert all its flight time to get back within visual range of your original point of origin and then perform a series of checks to make sure it is in working order. Such a re-pointing process would take several hours and during that time the UAV would not be able to work as well as it could have. So, the first thing to do would be to return the UAV to its original operational area and find out whether there are any further issues that would have required a UAV recovery.
If your UAV is operating within visual range, the odds are very good that it will still work. That said, your UAV would now have to perform a series of range checks to check for icing, line of sight challenges and whether or not it is experiencing low airspeed. You will probably have to perform a “dry run” of a possible new operation and set the system up with software and hardware that would simulate the final flight. Once everything is in the software, it can go live and immediately begin its job even if no one else knows about it. But in an adage that states, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the operation may still have to be executed somewhere in the real world.
What happens if a UAV is operating beyond visual range over a mountainous terrain and there is no way for the operator to get more altitude, turn or stabilize the UAVs attitude. If a UAV does not have a GPS system on board, the only option would be to descent the UAV back to land so it can continue the work? It could take hours and cost a fortune but if you can not land the UAV on a firm, level surface with adequate landing clearance and if there are no other UAVs in the area that you are operating from, then what’s the point? Again, it all depends on the final destination of the UAV.
What happens if a UAV cannot obtain an unobstructed view of its final target area when it is in flight? Will the UAV be flying above or alongside a fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter, glider or other vehicle that is in the area or is in radio contact with the UAV? The possibilities are vast. There could be a crash or collision, disruption of communications or vital data or the UAV might even collide with an aircraft flying in the same airspace and then crash or explode.
What happens if the UAV cannot land on a firm, level surface with adequate landing clearance and if there are no other UAVs in the area and the final destination is a remote area and there is no way to land UAVs or receive valuable data from them? That UAV would either simply crash or burn up on re-entry into atmosphere. That may not be a very nice way to end a mission. That could be a tragic scenario for the people that were working on the UAV. That may be even worse than if the UAV had gone out of range.
What happens if the UAV is unable to communicate with the UAV command and control system? If there is no one to verify the location and if the person on the ground is not trained or capable of doing that. What happens if a mechanical failure causes the UAV to be unable to fly? This would cause a lot of down time and a lot of money lost, too. It would be a very sad ending to a mission and an expensive loss of funds and valuable assets.