Game-Changing Laser Communications Ready for Fielding, Vendors Say
Magnuson, Stew, National Defense
Sending data with lasers, rather than radio frequencies, has the potential to revolutionize the way the military communicates, proponents of the technology have said.
Laser communications, which transmits ones and zeroes in a data stream through narrow beams of energy, is not unlike widely used fiber-optic cable--it just doesn't have the cable.
The military has been looking at "free-space optical communications"--the more technical term--for decades. Several defense contractors, meanwhile, have been investing their own dollars to develop laser communication applications--everything from blue-force tracking in small squads, to links between unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites, as well as communications on the move for ground troops riding in combat or tactical wheeled vehicles.
One vendor said it has already been fielded with a U.S. government customer he could not disclose.
NASA recently began a project to demonstrate how it can use the technology to link Earth-based ground stations to spacecraft traveling millions 01 miles away in the solar system.
Contractors say after years of development, the technology is ready to be widely fielded.
"We're talking data rates that can be 100 to 1,000 times or more greater than what you can get with [radio frequency] data links," said Michael Perry, vice president of the laser-electric optic business unit in General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.'s reconnaissance systems group. The UAV maker is partnering with a German satellite company to demonstrate laser links between a Reaper remotely piloted aircraft and a satellite in geo-stationary orbit some 25,000 miles above the Earth.
The finite amount of radio spectrum available to the U.S. military has been an ongoing issue. At the same time, the demand for it is insatiable. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Game-Changing Laser Communications Ready for Fielding, Vendors Say. Contributors: Magnuson, Stew - Author. Magazine title: National Defense. Volume: 97. Issue: 710 Publication date: January 2013. Page number: 34+. © 2009 National Defense Industrial Association. COPYRIGHT 2013 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.