SES, Hughes demonstrate satellite internet on General Atomics surveillance drone

An MQ-9B remotely piloted plane efficiently communicated with SES satellites in medium and geostationary Earth orbits

WASHINGTON — SES and Hughes in an indication final month put in satellite tv for pc web service on a Basic Atomics surveillance drone that the corporate sells to the U.S. army and allies.

The businesses introduced Nov. 10 that the MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted plane efficiently communicated with SES satellites in medium and geostationary Earth orbits. The drone stayed on the bottom and didn’t fly, however the corporations stated the demonstration confirmed how the army might use high-throughput satellite tv for pc connectivity to transmit live-video streams quicker and extra reliably than conventional single-orbit networks. 

The demonstration came about Oct. 20 at Basic Atomics’ flight operations facility in El Mirage, Calif. 

“As we increase into new and extra intricate payloads for our RPA, we’ll require greater information charges that present the bandwidth, safety and robustness to function our sensors,” stated Fred Darlington, senior vice chairman of Basic Atomics Aeronautical Programs.

“That is the primary time this multi-orbit functionality was built-in onto the MQ-9 platform,” stated Will Tong, SES vice chairman of strategic authorities initiatives.

SES operates a community of satellites in each medium and GEO orbits. Hughes Community Programs offered a software-defined modem and community administration software program to allow roaming throughout satellites.  

Tong stated one of many challenges of connecting plane to satellites is the scale and weight of the terminals. On this demonstration SES used a small terminal that delivered throughput of over 15 megabits per second. 

“Proper now remotely piloted plane have low information price L band as their secondary satcom hyperlink and that can’t carry the quantity of information that’s wanted to deliver crucial information from the RPA to the bottom,” he stated. The Hughes modem, he stated, switches the satcom hyperlink practically instantaneously, which doesn’t occur now. “If an RPA operator desires to modify hyperlinks for any kind of interference or jamming, it must be finished manually and that takes time.”

Some armed variations of the MQ-9s drop missiles on targets, however most conduct 24/7 reconnaissance over areas of curiosity. Its cameras transmit reside video to intelligence items or command facilities lots of or hundreds of miles away. 

Applied sciences accessible right this moment enable the army to get extra information from RPAs with out having to weigh the plane down with heavy tools, Tong stated. “Integrating a small type issue antenna — a couple of third of the scale of the present antenna — whereas displaying over four-times extra all through than present capabilities opens the realm of the potential,” he stated. 

RPAs presently have restricted connectivity of anyplace from 2 to 10 megabits per second, relying on their antennas, stated Tong. They usually undergo from a scarcity of resilience from dropping a satellite tv for pc hyperlink. This limits how a lot information could be transmitted and how briskly, he stated, notably high-resolution photos and video.

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