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Certified Identify Friend or Foe Capability Expands the Use of Drones in NATO Forces (sponsored)

24th March 2021 - 14:51 GMT | by Industry Spotlight

​Drones offer enormous potential on the front lines of the world’s military forces.

This article is brought to you by Sagetech Avionics.

Drones offer enormous potential on the front lines of the world’s military forces, with missions ranging from surveillance and reconnaissance to combat. However, this potential has not yet been fully realized due to the inability to reliably distinguish friendly drones from enemy drones, which increases the risk of accidental fratricide of drones between blue forces. As of February 2021, the world’s first micro IFF transponder is now certified and available for use on military unmanned systems, reducing these risks and enabling NATO forces to realize the full potential of unmanned aircraft.

“Imagine you’re a soldier on forward deployment and you see a drone coming your way. Is this your own drone coming home? Is it an enemy drone coming in?” illustrates Tom Furey, CEO of Sagetech Avionics. “It is difficult to tell based on visuals because today many enemy drones can mimic friendly drones. The decision you make in that split second can either preserve lives or put them at risk. You need to know without a doubt – is that drone coming at us a friend or foe?” 

The World’s First Micro Transponder Certified to DoD AIMS 17-1000 to Deliver IFF Functionality

For the first time, this problem is now solved with Sagetech’s certified Mode 5 micro Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders, purpose built for small unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but capable of use on larger, manned aircraft. For years, Identify Friend or Foe technology has been deployed on manned aircraft to offer a secure, encrypted method to positively identify, classify, and then act on an aircraft in contested airspace. Recently, Sagetech Avionics miniaturized the implementation of this technology while retaining all the functionality of its larger predecessors. The result is the DoD AIMS certified Mode 5 IFF transponder, the MX12B, which delivers IFF from a device that is 9 times smaller and more than 6 times lighter than existing IFF solutions. With a footprint about the size of a deck of cards, the MX12B micro IFF transponder can be now be deployed on NATO and allied drones to enable expanded missions, prevent fratricide, and increase the safety of our warfighters.

Sagetech MX12B certified micro IFF transponder delivers

Mode 5 functionality from a tiny SWaP package

The MX12B is the only transponder – of any size – now certified to the newer specification of AIMS 17-1000 Mark XIIB. Additionally compliant with the STANAG 4193 NATO IFF specification, it offers an upgradeable architecture to provide U.S., NATO, and allied forces worldwide with all current and future Mode 5 IFF function, in a micro form factor that saves at least 5 pounds for manned aircraft and drones.

Tiny Package Size, Full Functionality

The MX12B meets all the AIMS requirements for manned and unmanned aircraft alike in a single small package that makes it simple to purchase, integrate, and fly on UAS programs. The unit operates in Military Modes 1, 2, 3 and 5 (Levels 1 & 2) and is upgradeable to the future requirements of Mode 5 Level 2B In and Out. Despite the small package size, the unit performs to the same output power specifications as the larger units on manned aircraft, per AIMS 17-1000. The micro IFF MX12B features antenna diversity plus a flexible I/O that includes RS-422, RS-232 and Ethernet, making it the ideal IFF solution for small unmanned aircraft as well as larger manned aircraft. 

Sagetech MX12B certified IFF transponder

While the AIMS spec calls for just ADS-B Out, Sagetech has also integrated ADS-B In functionality, capable of tracking up to 400 nearby aircraft targets. The ADS-B In data is graphically displayed within the robust command and control software that ships with the unit.  Sagetech has future-proofed the MX12B with the capability to upgrade to Mode 5 Level 2B In/Out. Test bench and aircraft integration kits are also offered, including crypto computer (KIV) emulators for ease of integration.

Already, the new MX12B has shipped to numerous global military drone manufacturers for integration into a myriad of fixed- and rotary-wing UAS. 

What’s Next: IFF-Enabled, Certifiable Detect and Avoid Systems

The new certified micro transponder enables an entire new level of capability for military UAVs: an all-in-one IFF identification system combined with autonomous detect and avoid capability for both cooperative and non-cooperative traffic. Transponders like the MX12B, along with interrogators like Sagetech’s MXR Interrogator, form the core of an ACAS-based, certifiable, detect and avoid system. By combining Mode 5 IFF transponders upgraded with Level 2B In/Out, an interrogator, and an ACAS embedded computer, Sagetech will offer not only a Mode 5 IFF combat identification system, but also a complete low SWaP detect and avoid solution to avoid collisions. Sagetech anticipates this single box solution will serve on a breadth of manned and unmanned aircraft, ranging from Group 2 UAVs to the largest of manned and unmanned aircraft.


For complete details on Sagetech’s defense solutions including the micro IFF MX12B transponder, click here.

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Industry Spotlight

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