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Hughes and SES Demo Multi-Orbit Satellite Communications Capability for Unmanned Aircraft

Satellite service providers Hughes and SES have recently demonstrated a new multi-orbit satellite communications (SATCOM) capability for remotely piloted aircraft. The demo, which was carried out for General Atomics, combined Hughes HM series software-defined modems and the Resource Management System (RMS) with SES satellites in space.
General Atomics MQ-9 drone 9 photos
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SES' multi-orbit constellation of satellites, which delivers global coverage, was used to demonstrate how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), such as General Atomics' MQ-9 Reaper drone, can maintain connectivity and resiliency even in contested environments.

The demo simulated an unmanned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission by sending and receiving high-definition video and sensor data from the unmanned vehicle to the command center.

The RMS changed satellite signals based on the mission's pre-set rules. A near-instantaneous and seamless beam switch took only seconds to accomplish. Therefore, it managed to stay connected even when the signal encountered interference and jamming instances.

"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 at Hughes Defense.

The successful demo will also allow the military to improve its Primary Alternative Contingency Emergency (PACE) planning, which focuses on the sequence in which an element would proceed through available communications systems until contact can be established.

"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," explains Lober.

The Hughes HM System, a commercially based open architecture platform for fixed, mobile, and portable government applications provided the demonstration with software-defined gateways and modems. The recent demo also adds to SES' new O3b mPOWER, which provides high-performance as well as many levels of network resiliency and security for multi-domain operations that include moving platforms in remote, hostile environments.

Editor's note: Gallery shows General Atomics' MQ-9 Reaper drone.

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