Future UAV ‘super satellite highway’ makes progress
Experts from BAE Systems’ Future Combat Air Systems business have been working with engineers from Astrium on developing a Ka band ‘satellite super highway’ to support the future integration of UAVs into the UK’s airspace.
Satellite pathways are crowded with data generated by non-military sources, such as numerous TV stations. By opening up a fast, uncongested and rarely used satellite network as a ‘communications corridor’ within the Ka-band, the large amount of data required by UAVs will be able to be transferred quickly and securely during missions.
BAE Systems contributed to recent tests of the corridor that saw the company’s UAV mission system and associated UAV control station connected to the EADS Astrium Air Patrol Ka band satellite communications system. This system was in turn bolted down to a moving platform supplied by Astrium – known as the ‘Rocking Bed’ - to allow mission system software to communicate over the satellite link.
By replicating the profile of a UAV in flight, the ‘Rocking Bed’ allowed engineers to conduct systems testing as if they were on-board a UAV during a mission.
According to BAE Systems, the data was able to complete four ‘hops’ from the testing facility in Poynton, Cheshire, to the satellite and from the satellite to Goonhilly Downs station in Cornwall and back again – a distance of 144,000km.
John Airey, BAE Systems Future Combat Air Systems business, said: ‘Tapping into this communications frequency is the equivalent of a home internet user switching from an old copper wire modem connection to fibre optic broadband. Transfering data in this way offers distinct advantages especially for UAVs which need to quickly and securely transfer large amounts of data during mission phases.
‘This latest trial proved our software and hardware can operate over such an advanced satellite communications link without presenting any major integration problems. As UAV technology becomes more complex and the demand for these kind of connections greater; it will be those businesses at the forefront of this technology which will prosper.’
The trial took place at Astrium’s facility in Poynton, Cheshire, and was the culmination of two years’ work from BAE Systems, Astrium and satellite provider Avanti Communications.
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