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The future of communications in satellite-denied environments


The future of communications in satellite-denied environments

Military operations are increasingly dependent on satellite RF communications particularly for strategic communications links. The ability to continue to operate in a satellite denied environment has been identified as a vulnerability that may also impact air and maritime operations.

QinetiQ has developed a system combining Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) and real-time Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) collection capabilities within the same sensor.

The Software Defined Multifunction LIDAR (SDML) has the potential to provide multi-gigabit per second (Gbps) beyond line-of-sight communications in a satellite denied environment. This is achieved by using line-of-sight laser-based communications between a portable ground station and an airborne relay, either on aircraft of opportunity, high altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) or aerostats.

A Low Probability of Detection (LPD) and Low Probability of Interception (LPI) are the result of a combination of the laser frequency, emitted power and reduced optical sidelobes.

The software defined nature of SDML means that the mode of operation can be changed mid-mission between communications and ISR modes such as:

  • 3D imaging – traditional LIDAR imagery from a mobile platform;
  • Target designation – using low-power SWIR laser and custom modulation scheme all but undetectable by conventional OTS systems; and
  • Vibrometry – to remotely detect whether machinery is running or buildings are occupied.

QinetiQ UK has developed and tested an SDML payload for the Zephyr HAPS and are developing a ground station for space based SDML systems. SDML is a completely novel technology.

QinetiQ Australia are seeking to develop a sovereign SDML capability that complements the work being done in the UK. We will draw on the existing IP in the UK to develop vehicle and man-portable SDML systems in Australia. The systems will become part of the suite of SDML capabilities being offered globally.