A New Era of Military UAV Communications to Power Advanced Warfare and Defense Applications

By Roee Kashi CTO | February 28th, 2024

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Amid escalating geopolitical tensions, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have become increasingly significant in modern warfare and homeland security (HLS). As UAVs are transitioning from supplementary tools to central elements within military operations and security protocols, they face challenges associated with their communication systems.

The Strategic Value of Military UAVs

Military UAVs have become indispensable in the modern defense and security strategy, serving many roles, from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions to direct combat roles. Remote UAV operation offers a strategic advantage while minimizing the risk to human life in high-threat environments.

  • Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR): UAVs are pivotal in gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance over vast areas, offering crucial real-time data for operational planning and decision-making. Their ability to hover for extended periods provides a continuous stream of valuable information that extends the ground view and enhances the reach and accuracy of supporting fire. Drones provide rapidly deployable surveillance for military units, border patrols, and first responders such as police forces and fire departments. Ground teams can leverage wide-range visibility to determine the best entrance and exit points. UAVs are also applicable as portable, instant surveillance solutions in risky places or areas without infrastructure.
  • Targeted Strikes: Armed drones have revolutionized targeted operations, allowing for precise strikes against high-value targets with minimal collateral damage. This capability is instrumental in eliminating threats in hostile territories without deploying ground forces.
  •  Logistics and Resupply: UAVs are increasingly used for logistical support, delivering supplies to front-line units in difficult-to-reach areas. This application reduces the risk to human life and ensures that troops remain adequately supplied.
  • Communication Relay: In areas where communication infrastructure is compromised, UAVs can act as airborne communication relays, enhancing the connectivity between different units and command centers.
  • Electronic Warfare: Drones are also deployed for electronic warfare, including jamming enemy communications and detecting radar installations. 

The expanded scope of UAV use cases underscores their versatility and strategic value in modern military operations and highlights the significance of reliable communication required to harness their full potential. Moreover, the advent of armed and combat drones has amplified the need for real-time, secure, and resilient communication channels to execute precise actions.

 Military UAV Communication Challenges

The foundation of drone communication technology has traditionally required line-of-sight (LOS). While effective for specific applications, this method is range-limited and vulnerable to interference and obstruction. The effectiveness of UAVs hinges on robust communication, capable of remote operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), also known as NLOS (Non-Line of Sight), and in complex combat scenarios. Maintaining uninterrupted and secure communication in such conditions is paramount for the operational success of military UAVs.

Further obstacles in ensuring reliable UAV communication for real-time military applications include:

  • Electronic Warfare Tactics and Cyber Threats: Adversaries employ electronic jamming and cyber-attacks to disrupt drone communications and to see what the enemy is observing. Ensuring the integrity and security of UAV communications in an increasingly sophisticated cyberwar environment is a constant challenge.
  • Latency Issues: Real-time operations require minimal latency in communication. Delays in receiving or sending commands can compromise mission success, especially during engagements or surveillance operations.

Satellite communication (SATCOM) has emerged as a viable NLOS solution, offering broader coverage and enabling the global operation of UAVs. Yet, it has drawbacks, such as low bandwidth, high latency, high operational costs, and susceptibility to jamming. It became evident that successfully overcoming UAV communication challenges requires a multilink approach that offers a secured, robust, low latency, and high bandwidth solution.

Elsight’s Halo: Ensuring Secured and Continuous Military UAV’s Communications

Elsight’s Halo stands at the forefront of UAV communication, offering secured and uninterrupted communication for military applications. The Halo communication module aggregates multiple communication links, including 3G, LTE, and 5G cellular services, as well as proprietary SatCom and RF links, into a secure pipeline. Halo identifies and combines multiple, high-availability links while prioritizing low-latency channels in real-time to maintain the high quality-of-service for critical mission data. Halo encrypts and splits the data among multiple IP links to protect military traffic from multiple cyberwarfare tactics.

By aggregating all available IP links into one tunnel, Halo expands the available bandwidth and guarantees a continuous, high-quality connection essential for operating unmanned systems across various missions. The bonding algorithm automatically detects failed transmission channels and seamlessly diverts the traffic to provide hot failover ensuring flawless video streaming, telemetry, and command and control operations.

With its lightest, smallest, and lowest power-consuming bonded link solution, Halo is a pivotal technology for empowering military unmanned NLOS-C2 missions in their indispensable role in modern warfare. Halo is portable and quick to set up, even under battle conditions, providing a crucial edge when time is of the essence.

The Halo communication module is augmented by 3D reception coverage maps that significantly contribute to meticulous flight planning, offering insights into the operational environment and optimal flight paths. Additionally, the Allsight™ management platform enhances operational oversight, providing a multi-tier, multi-tenant environment, and is available as cloud-based or on-premise deployments to meet diverse organizational requirements.

Designed with the rigors of military use in mind, the Halo communication solution complies with the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and has an impressive record of over 200,000 flight hours in NLOS missions.

Summary

The need for robust, secure, and continuous communication systems is evident as UAVs continue to assume more critical roles in military and security operations. The challenges of NLOS environments and the demand for trusted real-time communication during military missions necessitate ongoing innovation in drone communication technology. Halo addresses the core challenges of drone communication, ensuring secure, reliable, and continuous connectivity for a wide range of military operations. Its innovative approach and robust features position it as a key enabler in the future of warfare and security, underlining the strategic value of enhanced UAV communication in addressing contemporary defense challenges.

 

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