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Airbus tests stratospheric 4G/5G defence comms

1st October 2018 - 08:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Airbus has successfully tested stratospheric 4G/5G defence applications with a high-altitude balloon demonstration, the company announced on 25 September.

Supported by the French and Canadian space agencies, Airbus flew and tested the solution in Canada at all altitudes up to 21km above the Earth’s surface, using a stratospheric balloon to create a high-altitude airborne cell site. In its payload, the balloon carried an Airbus LTE AirNode, which provided a 30km-wide footprint of coverage for private and secure communications.

The Airbus team, equipped with two vehicles and two UAS, tracked the balloon over 200km, exchanging 4K video between the different assets – simulating an ISR mission with real-time transmission. The data was sent via a private network at speeds from 0.5 to 4Mbps, which is comparable to 4G/5G mobile communication.

The LTE AirNode is part of Airbus’ secure networked airborne military communications project, Network for the Sky (NFTS). An LTE AirNode allows opportunistic, secure communications between different aircraft as they fly within range of each other, where operations require permanent and powerful connectivity. It will deliver highly secure communications for airborne assets, ground or maritime-based operations for several weeks or months at a time, combining the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV. This type of ad-hoc network can be adaptable to different users, including special forces and disaster relief scenarios.

With Airbus NFTS new generation of long-range communications, high-altitude platforms such as Airbus’ Zephyr will be able to create persistent, secured communication cells to relay information on a variety of different aircraft platforms including helicopters, tactical UAS and medium altitude long endurance UAS.

Airbus’ NFTS will integrate various technologies, such as satellite links with geostationary, medium and low Earth orbit constellations, tactical air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air links, voice links, 5G mobile communication cells and laser connections, into a single global secure network. Airbus aims to offer a full operational capability by 2020.

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