Military Embedded Systems

UAS controlled by laser gets demo


July 21, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Image: Qinetiq

FARNBOROUGH, U.K. Defense-technology company Qinetiq demonstrated what it says is the world's first successful demonstration of an airborne uncrewed platform (or unmanned aerial system -- UAS) that was controlled by way of a laser communication system. 

The demonstration consisted of a ground-based operator controlling a UAS, transmitting control commands and receiving sensor and platform information that included Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) as a bidirectional link in its mission communication system. According to the Qinetiq announcement, FSOC is very high bandwidth, carries very low probability of detection, has a logistical footprint, and potentially negates the considerable investment that adversaries may have made in denying the RF [radio-frequency] spectrum.

Control of a UAS has in the past used RF technologies, which are prone to detection and interference; in contrast, Qinetiq says that this demonstration's use of an integrated FSOC system better enables secure and covert operation of a UAS. 

The demonstration was part of the U.K Ministry of Defense Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Air Command and Control (C2), Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Interoperability project, which aims to improve both the digital interoperability and resilience of the communication systems that connect air platforms and associated capabilities (both current and potential).  

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