UK to develop first-of-type high altitude cellular comms

UK to develop first-of-type high altitude cellular comms 9 Dec, 15, Source: Roke

As part of its Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) Innovation Challenge, the UK Ministry of Defence has selected Roke Manor Research (Roke) to develop an innovative data link solution capable of transmitting real-time images and video from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) using 3G cellular technology.

Roke will design the world’s first high altitude data link to communicate directly with ground-based cellular infrastructure at a distance of more than 50 kilometres (31 miles). The low size, weight and power system could offer the military a cost-effective solution that maximises intelligence gathering by delivering a high-bandwidth communications channel for real-time images and video.

The system will use commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) 3G hardware, which alone cannot successfully transmit from high altitude to a base station on the ground. To achieve this, Roke will develop adaptive beamforming technology to intelligently direct the signal to a specific point on the ground to commercial cellular infrastructure, or to a dedicated military base station. [Editor note – it is unclear why this project is starting from a 3G base when 4G is already widely used across the UK]

Bob Dalgleish, Business Development Manager at Roke, said: “There is a great deal of interest worldwide in 3G cellular providing high data rate communications for the military and our system will be developed to meet the need not only for UAV to ground data links but to satisfy an increasing need for extended range terrestrial cellular communications systems.”

The DGP £10 million Innovation Challenge was launched in March 2015, through the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) together with the UK Defence Solutions Centre, with the aim of encouraging the development of innovative defence products with significant export potential. It is funded by the MOD and delivered through the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) CDE.

Roke Manor Research, part of the Chemring Group, is a world-class electronics engineering consultancy that helps their clients to maximise their investments technology. Trusted by government and industrial partners worldwide, it delivers technology-based R&D services, provides independent advice, and solves technically challenging problems.

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