It's clear that mission aircraft are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives; from our daily weather forecast to our morning traffic update, mission aircraft shape our daily routine. Mission aircraft provide the basic and obvious information we need to 'jump-start' our day and help us make our first decisions, such as what to wear and which way is best for today's commute to the office. This is not as straightforward as we might think.
Furthermore, the scope of operations for special mission aircraft is constantly expanding into multiple tasks including: aerial surveys, aerial photography, air sampling, weather transport, disaster support, drug interdiction, geothermic surveys and pipeline patrol. Law enforcement forces such as police commonly use mission aircrafts for traffic control, ground support, search and rescue, high-speed car pursuits, control of large scale public events and or/ ensuring public order. Actually, what may seem to us to be basic information we obtain to start the day, actually depends on multiple logistics and communications infrastructure and networks.
Transferring and communicating the data obtained from mission aircraft to local headquarters involves several challenges that require special attention. Most mission aircraft fly in or over challenging environments in either urban and densely populated areas, such as cities for weather, traffic and major events, or far and remote locations such as pipeline or border patrol, with no communications infrastructure at all. Therefore, assuring a consistent line of communications is a must. These N-LOS (non-line of sight) and remote surroundings pose many obstacles for most communication mediums. This becomes even more complicated when several aircraft hover over an area and require command, control and synchronization. So what are the essential communications aspects required for mission aircraft to perform their necessary tasks?
As befitting missioned tasks, missioned critical communications, by their nature, often deliver communication solutions that are designed to do just that. When it comes to mission aircraft, there are several points that need to be considered:
As mentioned above, assuring a consistent line of communications is a must. Creating a private wireless cloud that does not depend on mobile/cellular/WiFi infrastructure will provide communication consistency and continuity. Such infrastructure includes MESH, Mobile MESH and Collaborative MESH.
Mobile MESH Communications designed to communicate from aircraft meaning: a. On-the-move communications with ultra-high mobility speed
b. Full voltage range – 10V-48V from aircraft generated power
c. Full susceptibility to power fluctuation.
The communications system should have a configurable uplink/downlink channels and telemetry option.
For long distance missions, when multiple aircraft are used, some mobile MESH technology providers will enable the option of each aircraft to serve as a relay to all other aircrafts in the area. This will enable longer distance coverage and communication transfer and reception from any multipoint-to-multipoint, thus further reinforcing and assuring a strong and stable network.
In order to tranceive information via HD video, voice and data, a 4G LTE based technology will provide a scalable platform for transmitting information via all three mediums.
It's important that the communications system seamlessly integrates with end-to-end IP, Ethernet, VPN, VLAN applications for broadcast, multicast and unicast transmissions.
Last but not least – security. With cyberattacks on the rise, securing the information received and transmitted to and from mission aircraft is crucial. Some solutions will overlook this aspect all together while others provide embedded security, or even more, and provide both embedded security and an option to integrate third party security.
These points of course do not sum up all that is required to look for when integrating a communications system into mission aircraft, but they provide a starting point to which further examination is required.
Yossi Segal is the Co-Founder& VP of Research and Development for Mobilicom