ST Electronics unveils lightweight HALE UAV communications payload

The Agilis HALE UAV Communication Solution shown mounted on a sub-scale representation of a HALE UAV platform. Source: IHS/Kelvin Wong

Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics, the advanced electronics and communications business arm of defence prime ST Engineering, has unveiled a new lightweight radio-frequency (RF) payload for high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the CommunicAsia 2016 exhibition in Singapore.

Developed by ST Electronics’s Satcom & Sensor Systems subsidiary, the Agilis HALE UAV Communication Solution comprises the air segment – the integrated UAV payload containing the low-noise amplifier and RF filters, the modular phased-array antenna, and the fixed-payload antenna – and the ground segment, which includes land-based terminals (such as handheld or manportable satcom devices), a satellite modem, and an outdoor unit.

The company has partnered with Israeli firm SatixFy to integrate the latter’s silicon-based application specific integrated circuit technology, which features a hybrid software/hardware architecture that combines software-defined radio technology with custom hardware acceleration.

“What we did here is to come up with a ‘pseudo-satellite’ system that can be rapidly deployed anywhere it’s required, unlike conventional communications satellites, which are costly and time-consuming to launch into orbit,” Rajanik Mark Jayasuriya, vice-president of the company’s Satellite Networks Business Group, told IHS Jane’s .

“With satellites we are typically looking at [data transmission] latencies in the order of 600 ms,” he said. “[Our approach] provides a performance that is about 20 ms.”

The company showcased a 10 kg/100 W-class RF payload design that it is developing for an undisclosed customer. (IHS/Kelvin Wong)The company showcased a 10 kg/100 W-class RF payload design that it is developing for an undisclosed customer. (IHS/Kelvin Wong)

According to Jayasuriya, the communications payload is a bespoke design built to fit a customer’s HALE UAV platform and operational requirements. However, the company intends to maintain certain engineering parameters, including a weight and power requirement that does not exceed 10 kg and 100 W, respectively, and a broadband capacity of at least 6 Gbyte/s with coverage of a zone that is approximately 100 km 2around the UAV.

“The key [design considerations] are size, power, and weight, which determines the data performance and range that it offers,” he said.

Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options