Helicopters are critical to missions around the world—from search and rescue, disaster response, military troop and equipment transport, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) efforts. Yet, for years, they have not had the same broadband communications capabilities as fixed wing aircraft because spinning rotors interrupted signal transmissions. In 2013, Hughes introduced new algorithms to allow wideband data to pass through rotor blades and with its HeloSat™ technology made broadband communications available on helicopters. Since then, Hughes and industry partners have further improved SATCOM technology and reduced the size, weight and power of antennas to make them compatible with a full variety of rotary platforms in the U.S. and elsewhere. The entire HeloSat solution is now easily adaptable and designed to address specific mission needs, operational constraints or limiting characteristics of a platform.
That’s good news for militaries around the world, since studies show the helicopter market is continuing to grow. According to the Military Helicopters Global Market Report 2021, the global military helicopters market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3% from 2020 to 2021 and reach $67.5 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 6.6%.
Adapting HeloSat to Support Multiple Platforms
To enable HeloSat to support multiple platforms, Hughes created a universal mount technology that can be retrofitted for different rotorcraft, including the Sikorsky S-92 and S-76, AH-64, UH-60, CH-47, Super Puma, Agusta 139, and others. The HeloSat solution can be installed on these helicopters to provide high data rates, uninterrupted connectivity and resilient communications—especially urgent in time-sensitive situations.
Last year, Hughes conducted an in-flight HeloSat demonstration using this universal mount on a Black Hawk helicopter, delivering bandwidth at speeds of 17 Mbps. In 2021, Hughes successfully tested the solution on a dual-rotor Chinook helicopter, a significant milestone given that, in this application, the HeloSat solution must overcome rotor blade chop from two rotors.
In Italy, collaborating with Telespazio, Hughes installed HeloSat on the Leonardo SW-4 Solo, a rotorcraft system that can be piloted either with or without a crew. For this recent deployment, HeloSat enabled connectivity using the Athena-Fidus Ka-band satellite capacity via the Telespazio ground station.
Typically, today’s rotary-wing solutions only deliver low-throughput connectivity and cannot support high-definition video transmissions or meet the needs of more bandwidth intensive applications. In addition to enhancing helicopter-based communications, the HM400 modem used in the HeloSat solution delivers strong capabilities for fixed wing aircraft in terms of flexibility, efficiency and cost.
Global military operations need uninterrupted, real-time communications anywhere and everywhere to make mission-critical decisions on the spot. For those who rely on choppers to serve, protect, carry troops and save lives, the HeloSat solution delivers the resilient broadband connectivity they need for mission success.