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.

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