Profiles Innovation: Sechan Modular Ground Control Station Gives Flight to UAVs

December 16, 2018

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) market is expanding at an unprecedented pace. In fact, according to Stratistics MRC data published by MarketWatch, the global unmanned aerial vehicles market was estimated at $5.93 billion in 2015 “and is expected to reach $22.15 billion by 2022,” growing at more than 20 percent annually. In the U.S., the market for UAVs is projected to reach $4.4 billion in 2020, reports the Freedonia Group, with the number of aerial vehicles sold expected to reach $5.5 million by then.

As a leading electronics manufacturer and systems integrator for the aerospace and defense industries, Sechan Electronics, Pennsylvania developed and introduced a fully-customizable modular ground control station (MGCS). Sechan’s MGCS is purpose-built to address a common industry dilemma: the need to quickly move complex command and control systems across the terrain, no matter how long or treacherous the journey.

Sechan’s MGCS combines an off-the-shelf design with flexible components. Their customers can create their own unique MGCS from a menu of operating software and hardware integrated into a single reliable, shippable Pelican case. This means when customer UAVs are quickly deployed, the MGCS deploys alongside with no downtime.

Controlling Military UAVs from a Single Portable Unit

According to Sechan Program Manager, Matt Flannery, current UAV ground control solutions available on the market come in pieces – with “multiple cases, multiple laptops and multiple components” to connect, manage and transport.

His team envisioned instead a single man-portable unit – one in which all technological components are housed within and hardwired to a protective case. They knew that this enclosure had to withstand austere conditions, weather elements; meet tough military operations and unique client requirements.

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“Military GCS systems available today are generally transported in a trailer with a dual axle and include banks of laptops and other components connected by spaghetti wires,” says Flannery. “Setting up this type of system is a cumbersome process at best, and the resulting solution is easily damaged due to the number of individual connections between components.”

Pelican 1770: Performance Tested and Customizable

To protect its new mobile MGCS solution, Sechan selected the Pelican 1770 Transport Case. Measuring 54.58" x 15.58" x 8.63,” the Pelican 1770 is an unbreakable, watertight, airtight, dustproof, chemical-resistant and corrosion-proof hard case built to ISO 2001:2008 standards. Its strength, durability and innovative design have earned the Pelican 1770 numerous awards from the National Institute of Packaging, Handling and Logistics Engineering (NIPHLE).

“We set the bar really high,” said John Prime, Vice President of Program Management for Sechan. “In order to succeed, we had to have quality suppliers working in a quality management system that delivers performance every time.”

To ensure performance, Pelican 1770 cases undergo rigorous product testing, including drop, impact, thermal, immersion and vibration testing. “What drove us to the Pelican case was a ruggedized form factor that allowed all the components to be integrated into one system,” said Flannery.

In fact, the case interior was fully customized by Sechan engineers using metal installation rails to secure processors, power supplies, cooling systems, monitors and other system components.

“Sechan followed a modular approach that allows this unit to be reconfigured quickly and easily according to the application,” said Flannery.

While Sechan customized its MGCS enclosure in-house, companies can also call on Pelican Products to handle the customization process for them. Pelican engineers can work from CAD files, physical samples or even rough sketches to design the exact case needed to protect sensitive equipment.

Sechan MGCS Expands to Commercial UAV Markets

The stability, durability and portability of the Sechan MGCS make it ideally suited for military applications. However, Prime emphasizes that the system could also serve the expanding range of industries that are relying on UAVs.

“The ground control system can be used anywhere you are looking for information or surveillance,” said Prime. “It can be used for firefighting, to survey power lines in remote areas, and to enhance command and control during disaster relief missions.”

He continued, “Currently, we’re working with UAVs, but we can also see the ground control system being used on sea, on land, and undersea for all types of unmanned vehicles.”

Because Sechan offers a depth of expertise in hardware and software design, the company is well positioned to bring its new MGCS to these markets.

Whether Sechan’s MGCS will be used for military operations or disaster relief, Sechan engineers understand what it takes to equip professionals for any challenge they might encounter on the job.

To go behind the scenes and see how Sechan engineers developed the MGCS, view our video here.