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USSOCOM to deploy next-generation communications for sUAS in contested scenarios

4th May 2024 - 17:16 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira in Tampa


Blackwave is designed to be a secure, digital link. (Photo: Performance Drone Works)

SOCOM will operate the PDW Blackwave system, which enables critical communications and the operation of small drones in highly congested environments.

The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will deploy the Blackwave next-generation UAS communications. Produced by Performance Drone Works (PDW), the solution is designed to be a secure, digital link that is resistant to intentional and unintentional interference.

The system enables critical communications and the operation of small UAS in highly contested and congested environments.

Speaking to Shephard, the PDW’s CEO and co-founder, Ryan Gury, explained that Blackwave is a radio 'built from scratch' to overcome EW threats and use 'as much of the radio spectrum as possible to deliver a solid signal' regardless of how much enemy EW is being served.

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'We believe radios have to be developed in this fashion in order to be able to overcome and deliver your missions for future battlefields and conflicts,' Gury noted. 'It [Blackwave] will be serving in an environment that will be largely jammed across the spectrum.'

According to him, the system was submitted to several domestic tests against jamming systems similar to ones that would be found on the battlefield.

In February, the USSOCOM awarded the company a $6.9 million contract for the handover of the Blackwave. The company, though, could not disclose details on the delivery schedule of the solution.

The company will put on display at the SOF Week 2024 exhibition in Tampa, Florida, from 6 to 9 May, its C100 multi-mission sUAS quadcopter, which is a portable and packable drone fitted with autonomous, AI-assisted software that can navigate, identify and execute missions.

C100 multi-mission sUAS quadcopter. (Photo: Performance Drone Works)

'It is a central hub to many different payloads and AI autonomy radios and allows a single soldier to deploy pretty much their own air support,' Gury highlighted. 'That can be the delivery of resupply, kinetic effects, ISR, signals intelligence, really anything a single soldier will need.'

As an option, PDW also offers a mechanical release device for munitions and resupply. Moreover, the C100 is equipped with autonomous frontal collision avoidance and visual position hold.

This quadcopter weighs 21.1 lbs (9.57 kg) and can carry a maximum payload mass of 10 lbs (4.5 kg) with its long endurance pack batteries.

In terms of range, it can reach over 6.2 miles (10 km), has a 22mph (35km/h) cruise speed and a max speed of 40 mph (64.4 km/h).

Additionally, the solution has a 61dB at 5m away acoustic signature, which is non-audible at 600 meters. Another feature is its night operations zero light emission mode, with IR LEDs and strobe lights.

PDW’s CTO, Dylan Hamm pointed out that the company’s systems are 'really focused on deploying multiple mission sets to protect service members through conducting missions like intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and rescue operations'.

'Our systems are being deployed all over the place,' Hamm claimed. 'We cannot really talk about the specifics of our customers but we are selling to customers and special forces in the United States.'

Flavia Camargos Pereira


Flavia Camargos Pereira

Flavia Camargos Pereira is a North America editor at Shephard Media. She joined the company …

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