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Advances in airborne broadband technology hold the promise of enabling cost-effective communications to aid situational awareness on the ground for military reconnaissance, border patrols, and other government and commercial applications. But there remain a number of challenges associated with beyond-line-of-sight communications; for instance, signal blockages by terrain and on-the-move impairments.
In addition, high-quality video is increasingly needed to deliver real-time information from aircraft to ground in today’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. This requires data rates of 10 Mbps or more, and high-definition is also starting to become common for some applications, such as video sensors, aircraft radar, and other types of sensors.
That’s why Hughes is leveraging its latest commercial airborne and ground system technologies to develop beyondline- of-sight (BLoS) satellite solutions, or what we know as SATCOM, for military manned and unmanned aircraft, including rotary-wing aircraft. For example, to deal with the challenge of rotating helicopter blades, Hughes has developed error correction codes and an advanced satellite waveform operating over its HX System to resolve blockages. The advanced waveform also supports much smaller antennas and has certain anti-jam characteristics for this and other applications.
In several recent tests, Hughes successfully demonstrated high-throughput video and data transmission over satellite links on a variety of customer rotary-wing platforms. Employing Hughes advanced waveform technology, the new communications-on-the-move (COTM) “microsat” system achieved zero packet loss on transmission and reception through the rotor blades, over both Ka- and Ku-band satellite channels.
The tests were conducted on a variety of military and commercial helicopters in both static and inflight environments that included a number of pitch, bank, and roll maneuvers. In all cases, the Hughes microsat system successfully transmitted full-motion video through the rotor blades over both conventional Ku-band global beam and Ka-band global or spot beam satellites. The system operates with a variety of commercially available airborne antennas, facilitating integration with various government, military, and commercial platforms. The company will test the system in a fixed-wing application with the U.S. Air Force and on a U.S. Navy rotary-wing platform later this year.
“We believe Hughes has a unique approach to innovative, cost-effective mobility solutions for military and commercial applications,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of Hughes Defense and Intelligence Systems Division. “With global coverage and employing much smaller antennas, our new microsat technology is ideal for command and control and ISR missions in all airborne environments, combining patented waveform design on a proven, common platform for all applications—unlike other single-use solutions.”
Hughes novel airborne solutions can also be used on mobile land and maritime vehicles. Additional government and commercial applications for this technology include public safety, police helicopters, firefighting, agriculture, and land surveys.
The military’s increasing use of manned and unmanned airborne vehicles, both fixed- and rotary-wing, is creating a surging need for BLoS communications, including transmission of ISR data—and for which Hughes advanced airborne broadband technology is ideally suited to help improve mission results.