Eyes in the Sky, Arms Beyond Reach: The Indispensable Role of Beyond the Visible Line-of-Sight Communication in SOF (Special Operations Forces) Missions

By Roee Kashi CTO | May 2nd, 2024

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The modern battlefield is a dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystem where information dominance is key. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) have emerged as force multipliers, extending the reach and capabilities of military and special operation forces.

Special operations forces (SOF) are tasked with executing some of modern warfare’s most complex and high-risk missions. These missions often take place in hostile environments, where stealth, precision, and rapid response are paramount. In this demanding operational landscape, the integration of UAVs and UGVs has proven to be a game-changer, providing SOF units with enhanced capabilities and a decisive edge.

Delivering tactical advantage: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)

One of the primary applications of unmanned systems in special operations is intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). UAVs, particularly small and agile platforms equipped with low-noise technology, can covertly conduct reconnaissance missions in challenging or hostile areas, providing SOF units with real-time intelligence and situational awareness. This information is crucial for mission planning, target identification, risk assessment, and real-time informed decisions to gain tactical advantage and safeguard troops.

Empowering the battlefield: Tactical support and combat operations

The diverse capabilities of UAVs extend far beyond traditional surveillance and reconnaissance.

  • Target Identification and Tracking: UAVs are invaluable in identifying targets and tracking their movements across diverse environments. UAVs can hover silently or move across designated areas to continuously monitor targets and provide real-time data crucial for timely and decisive action. The integration of advanced facial recognition and machine learning further enhances the ability to identify and verify targets from vast amounts of visual data collected during missions so special operations forces can plan precision strikes or operations with minimal collateral damage and risk to personnel.
  • Precision strikes: Armed with laser targeting capabilities, UAVs are potent tools for precision strikes on designated targets, supporting SOF units on the ground and ensuring surgical strikes against enemy positions.
  • Battle Damage Assessment (BDA): UAVs can fly over engagement zones to provide real-time damage assessments that ensure accurate and effective military strikes. Commanders can adjust tactics and strategies on the fly for maximum efficacy while reducing the collateral damage associated with military engagements.
  • Communication relay: SOF teams often operate in complex environments with limited or unreliable communication infrastructure. UAVs can act as airborne communication relays, extending the range and reach of ground troop communication networks. These relays enable vital information sharing among teams operating in disparate locations, facilitating coordinated action and ensuring everyone has a clear picture of the evolving situation.
  • Electronic Warfare (EW) operations: SOF units often operate in environments where electronic warfare (EW) is a significant factor. UAVs equipped with electronic jamming or signal intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities can disrupt enemy communications and infiltrate network communications to gather valuable intelligence while operating beyond the range of traditional ground-based EW systems.
  • Logistics and resupply: Unmanned vehicles are instrumental in supporting medical and logistics units with essential supplies, such as ammunition, food, and medical equipment, to frontline positions in remote or dangerous locations. These unmanned vehicles can navigate treacherous terrain to ensure that troops are adequately provisioned, even in the most challenging operational environments, and reduce the risk to human personnel.
  • Search and rescue operations: In the aftermath of combat, UAVs play critical roles in search and rescue operations. They can quickly access areas that are otherwise unreachable or hazardous for human teams, identify survivors, assess the extent of damage, and ensure timely and coordinated rescue efforts.

Empowering ground forces with UGVs

UGVs offer a range of advantages, such as operating in hazardous environments, performing tedious tasks, providing vital support to ground troops, and mitigating risks to SOF units.

  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD): An EOD robot allows the operator to remotely control the robot and detonate the device from a safe distance.
  • CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) threat detection and reconnaissance: UGVs with specialized sensors can detect chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats in hazardous environments.
  • Force protection and perimeter security: UGVs equipped with surveillance cameras can be deployed on patrol missions to monitor large areas, detect potential threats, and alert troops to suspicious activity.

The critical role of NLOS communication

While UAVs and UGVs’ contributions to successful military operations are undeniable, their effectiveness hinges on reliable communication. Traditional communication systems are susceptible to disruption by terrain features, buildings, or enemy jamming that can lead to a loss of video feed and control, hindering mission success and jeopardizing personnel safety.

To truly unlock their full potential, unmanned systems require non-line-of-sight (NLOS) or what is known as BVLOS (beyond the visual line-of-sight) communication to ensure nonstop data flow over great distances and in challenging conditions, and enable real-time transmission and control, even in the most hostile settings.  Regardless of physical barriers, an uninterrupted connection between operators and their unmanned systems fuels continuous command and control, real-time intelligence, informed decision-making, and targeted operation.

The multifaceted advantages of NLOS connectivity in UAVs and UGVs

The benefits of reliable NLOS communications for UAVs and UGSs are multifaceted and far-reaching for military and SOF operations, empowering armed forces with a strategic edge and greater agility to dynamically adapt and swiftly respond to evolving threats:

  • Enhancing situational awareness: Real-time data streaming from NLOS-enabled UAVs and UGVs equips commanders with continuous, up-to-the-minute intelligence, enabling information-backed decisions and rapid response to evolving situations on the battlefield.
  • Extending the operational reach beyond line-of-sight distances while maintaining uninterrupted connectivity and information flow across vast geographical areas and harsh environments.
  • Making informed decisions based on enhanced ongoing situational awareness to accurately deploy resources and gain tactical advantage.
  • Maximizing force protection by conducting complex operations from safe distances, beyond the operator’s sight, minimizing the risk of casualties, and enhancing force protection measures.
  • Fostering a cohesive operational environment with increased situational awareness and better coordination among various operational units, enabling seamless teamwork and reducing the risk of friendly fire incidents.
  • Reducing collateral damage and enhancing the effectiveness of strike missions with reliable high-resolution video feeds and sensor data.

NLOS-powered unmanned systems significantly expand the capabilities of special operations forces, providing them with a technological edge in various aspects of their operations. NLOS communication in unmanned systems reshapes military tactics and strategies, opening new avenues for more agile and responsive military operations.

Unleashing the power of NLOS Communication in unmanned military systems

Elsight’s Halo communication module is a game-changer for military and SOF unmanned applications.  It empowers UAVs and UGVs to operate with communication confidence beyond the operator’s visual line of sight, extending their operational reach with secure, real-time, uninterrupted control and video transmission. Halo leverages a cutting-edge bonding algorithm to seamlessly merge multiple communication links, creating versatile, network-agnostic high bandwidth and low latency connectivity for challenging NLOS missions. Halo intelligently navigates through communication dead zones by automatically identifying, prioritizing, and aggregating all available links from multiple cellular carriers and technologies (3G, LTE, 5G, SatCom, and proprietary RF) to achieve continuous and robust transmission for mission-critical connectivity.

Elsight’s Halo bridges the gap in traditional communication limitations, empowering military and SOF forces to leverage the full potential of UAVs and UGVs:

  • Always-on connectivity: Halo’s sophisticated algorithm seamlessly fuses multiple cellular and RF links, ensuring a resilient network tunnel for uninterrupted data transmission, including vital video, audio, and telemetry streams for continuous mission control.
  • Mission-critical cybersecurity: Halo safeguards sensitive military data with advanced encryption (AES-256-CBC), data-splitting, and multi-link transmission.
  • Failover protection you can rely on: Halo’s intelligent design guarantees uninterrupted data transmission by automatically aggregating all the available links. If one link experiences a temporary disruption, others seamlessly take over, ensuring mission continuity.
  • Lightweight, portable and mobile: Elsight’s Halo has a compact, lightweight design with low power consumption that translates to unmatched versatility, portability for easy transport, and ease of integration with various UAV and UGV platforms.

With Elsight’s Halo NLOS communication module, special operation forces can unlock a new era of operational efficiency. Halo’s reliable and secure NLOS connectivity allows for quick deployment of UAVs and UGVs in hazardous environments, providing commanders with a comprehensive battlefield view, informed decision-making, and a decisive tactical advantage.

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