Satellite communication for UAV's from Hughes Defense. In the UK and in new markets

PUBLISHED AT: Friday, 10 November 2017, 15:48
Reaper Royal Air Force

Hughes Defense is one of the leading US companies responsible for providing satellite communications to the US and other countries' armed forces. The company is under contract to General Atomics to provide a new satellite communication link for the UK Protector UAS that will operate over the Skynet satellite. Hughes is looking to provide satellite communications and similar services to other countries interested in UAS as well as satellite communication for other platforms such as fixed wing, helicopters and vehicles.

In the British UAS program, Hughes Defense closely cooperates with the prime contractor of the Protector UAS that will be used by the Royal Air Force, which means the company General Atomics. The main agreement has been approved by the British Defense Ministry in early December 2016, thus giving the green light to start development work on a specially adapted British model MQ-9 - for internal use also referred to as "SkyGuardian".

The contract is being implemented under a dedicated Protector program, for £ 100m. In March 2017, the company received a contract with General Atomics to develop a a satellite communication link for the certified RAF Reaper System. Under the agreement, a complete on-board satellite communications system for the new generation of British Predators will be implemented.The order includes the supply of electronic equipment that supports wideband satellite communication channels using different data transmission frequencies.

We are the main modem supplier and SATCOM system integrator working jointly with General Dynamics, which has developed a new antenna for Protector UAS. In the UK program, the system is based on the X-band satellite constellation Skynet.

Wayne Marhefka, Senior Director, Business Development, Defense and Intelligence Systems Division, Hughes Defense

The understood scope of work is intended to primarily include the X band used in the British satellite communication constellation, SkyNet 5. However, the infrastructure will also be fully adapted for data transmission using the Ku and Ka bands.

The new RAF Reaper communication system is designed to operate using the modified HM-200 modem system, derived from the equipment used for military rotorcraft. The advanced version will feature specialized waveform capabilities, reduced overall dimensions and reduced power consumption designated the HM400. 

What is important is that Hughes Defense is ready to cooperate with other countries when it comes to satellite communications for drones. In the case of Reaper drones offered to Poland under the Zefir program, however, the decision belongs to General Atomics, which is the manufacturer of the aircraft.

We are definitely interested in the Polish market and generally the Central European market. We have already started internal discussions on this subject. We are interested in establishing contacts with Polish companies and government to present our solutions.

Wayne Marhefka, Senior Director, Business Development, Defense and Intelligence Systems Division, Hughes Defense

However, Hughes Defense satellite communication systems can be used by different types of unmanned vehicles, as well as helicopters and ground platforms. As Hughes Defense representatives emphasized in the interview with Defence24.pl, the company is interested in starting up its activities in new countries such as Poland, which has a high ambition in the field of drones and plans to acquire a few categories of unmanned vehicles. From armed, unmanned MALE planes (Zefir program) through tactical unmanned vehicles to smaller platforms.

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