Multi-orbit SATCOM for remotely piloted aircraft demonstrated

September 23, 2021 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Multi-orbit SATCOM for remotely piloted aircraft demonstrated
Hughes Resource Management System seamlessly switches signals across SES geostationary and medium earth orbit satellites, supporting secure connectivity for ISR, even in contested environments

Hughes Network Systems and SES have announced the first successful demonstration of a new multi-orbit satellite communications (SATCOM) capability for remotely piloted aircraft. Conducted for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the demonstration paired Hughes HM series software-defined modems and Resource Management System (RMS) with SES's satellites that operate in geosynchronous (GEO) and medium earth (MEO) orbits. SES's unique multi-orbit satellite fleet, which delivers global coverage, high throughput and security, was leveraged to show how unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the GA-ASI MQ-9 series, can maintain crucial connectivity and resiliency, even in contested environments.

The demonstration replicated a typical unmanned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission, transmitting high-definition video and sensor data to and from the unmanned vehicle to the command center. Based on the mission's pre-set policies, the RMS automatically switched the satellite signals to stay connected – even when a signal experienced interference and jamming scenarios. A quasi-instant and smooth beam switch took just seconds to complete, allowing a near real-time capability that enhances the military's Primary Alternative Contingency Emergency (PACE) planning.

"Our multi-orbit demonstration for remotely piloted aircraft delivered three times the throughput of the currently deployed SATCOM service using a terminal less than half the size, while maintaining constant connectivity," said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager, Hughes Defense. "This highly resilient, significantly reduced SWAP option for primary and secondary aero connections unlocks new beyond-line-of-sight mission opportunities for unmanned aerial vehicles like the GA-ASI MQ-9. It's another example of how Hughes empowers our military to exchange information securely with the right people at the right time."

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