Satellite connectivity is the key to beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications on UAVs. Traditionally, smaller UAVs (Class III with max weight of 1320 lbs and max speed 250 kts) have been limited to operating with line-of-site communications systems. Because they have not been able to accommodate large, power-hungry SATCOM terminals, which require substantial space on the aircraft, their operational range has been dramatically limited. Today, however, things are changing. New, smaller SATCOM terminals are coming into the market. As a result, new options are permitting these smaller aircraft to expand their range and therefore significantly improve their usefulness to the warfighter.
Airborne vehicles have an acute sensitivity to size and weight when prioritizing primary and support systems. Every pound of mass and watt of power allocated to a communications payload is one less pound that can be redistributed to a sensor payload. Today, airborne terminals are as small as 6 inches square! X-band terminals can transmit more Mbps using fewer MHz than any other frequency band due to 4 degree orbital spacing, which eliminates potential interference.
UAVs operate primarily to deliver essential airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) relying on terminals to send and receive data. Today’s X-band terminals on Class III UAVs reduce bandwidth consumption by three to five times when compared to the same throughput on Ku-band. These smaller, lighter platforms additionally provide beyond-line-of-sight functionality and range at a significant cost savings. Added throughput from X-band terminals allows for real-time data transfer from the aircraft to ground operatives who may be within theater or thousands of miles away.
Anyone planning to deploy a small aircraft to meet an airborne ISR requirements, should be excited about these new options on the market. You owe it to yourself to take a look at these new terminals and see how they perform on XTAR’s fleet.