11.11.2013  |  Press release

Poynton, Cheshire: The Ka band or “satellite super-highway” – a fast, uncongested and rarely used satellite network – has been opened up by a team of engineers, including BAE Systems, with the aim of supporting UK unmanned aircraft missions in the future.

The effective use of satellite communication systems is essential to help facilitate the safe and routine flying of unmanned aircraft in airspace, which BAE Systems is helping to pioneer. UAVs need to be able to transfer large amounts of data quickly and securely during missions.

In a UK-first, experts working at BAE Systems Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) business, in partnership with engineers from aerospace company Astrium, have found a way to use a “communications corridor” within the Ka-band to send large amounts of data into space.

To test the “corridor” the team connected the latest BAE Systems UAV Mission System and associated UAS Control Station to the EADS Astrium Air Patrol Ka band Satellite Communications System, which was in turn bolted down to a moving platform supplied by Astrium termed the ‘Rocking Bed’ to allow mission system software to communicate over the satellite link.

Although the ‘Rocking Bed’ never actually left the ground it was able to replicate the profile of an unmanned aircraft allowing the systems to be tested as if they were on-board a UAV flying a real mission.

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 – more than a third of the distance from the Earth to the moon.

By hitching a ride on the new satellite super-highway, data can bypass the already-congested satellite pathways which are crowded with data generated by non-military sources including numerous TV stations.

John Airey, of BAE Systems’ Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) 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 SATCOM link without presenting any major integration problems. As UAV technology becomes  at the forefront of this technology which will prosper.”

The trial took place at Astrium’s advanced manufacturing facility in Poynton, Cheshire, and was the culmination of two years’ work which included aerospace firm BAE Systems, Astrium and satellite provider Avanti Communications.

Nigel Pearce, Head of Terminals and Products at Astrium which developed a state of the art high through-put antenna to support the simulation; a Ka development of the AirPatrol SATCOM system that is flying today added: “This joint team effort has successfully proved the potential for airborne SATCOM in supporting complex UAV missions at Ka-band.”

For more information, please contact:

David Coates, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0)1772 854636
Jeremy Close (Astrium UK)
Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872
Issued by:
BAE Systems plc
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 384719
Web: www.baesystems.com Inspired Work
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