While advancements in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have emerged as a “buzzworthy” topic for the military and government in recent years, the technology has served our nation well for more than a century. At least two years before the Wright brothers’ first crewed flight on December 17, 1903, warfighters deployed archaic UAV technology for combat and surveillance.
Since then, technological innovation–including satellite communications (SATCOM)—has greatly expanded capabilities to accommodate constantly shifting Department of Defense (DoD) user demands. Military operations are increasingly reliant upon UAVs for a range of Command and Control (C2) and Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (AISR) missions. Many of these missions require Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications links that enable these platforms to deliver intelligence in real-time.
Also, AISR and other highly mobile government communities increasingly deploy sensors to maximize their effectiveness and reach. Further innovations in tactical UAVs and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) add capabilities to the mix, yet also come with their data and C2 requirements. These factors increasingly drive demand for high-throughput bandwidth availability and reliability.
With such developments steering industry and government toward the path of a productive partnership, there is a great opportunity to work together to augment and complement existing and future military SATCOM (MILSATCOM) in support of these highly agile airborne operations with global coverage, high-throughput, small-footprint antennas, and anywhere/anytime connectivity, along with SATCOM diversity, reliability and security.
The satellite industry, in response, is delivering advancements in the form of improved capabilities and business models – such as SATCOM as a Service, with always-on access to reliable SATCOM, anytime and anywhere – that allows the DoD to leverage complementary commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM). Leveraging commercial satellite boosts the effectiveness, flexibility, and resiliency of MILSATCOM systems for dynamic and global crewless missions, with Ka-band emerging as the optimal option due to its ability to interoperate with military satellite resources.