Intelsat General and L-3 Communication Systems-West demo automatic beam switching for UAS on Intelsat EpicNG

MCLEAN, Va., 8 March 2016. Intelsat General Corp. (IGC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Intelsat S.A. (NYSE:I) and operator of a Globalized Network powered by its satellite backbone, and L-3 Communication Systems-West (L-3 CS-West) have demonstrated new, automatic beam switching. The new technology enables unmanned airborne systems (UAS), commonly called drones, fitted with L-3 CS-West satellite communications packages to operate on the Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellite (HTS) platform.

Intelsat General and L-3 Communication Systems-West demo automatic beam switching for UAS on Intelsat EpicNG
Intelsat General and L-3 Communication Systems-West demo automatic beam switching for UAS on Intelsat EpicNG

MCLEAN, Va., 8 March 2016. Intelsat General Corp. (IGC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Intelsat S.A. (NYSE:I) and operator of a Globalized Network powered by its satellite backbone, and L-3 Communication Systems-West (L-3 CS-West) have demonstrated new, automatic beam switching. The new technology enables unmanned airborne systems (UAS), commonly called drones, fitted with L-3 CS-West satellite communications packages to operate on the Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellite (HTS) platform.

Epicng Satellite

The software upgrade, funded and developed through an IGC and L-3 CS-West partnership, ensures existing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) platforms can take advantage of the 3x–4x throughput improvement enabled by Intelsat EpicNG, officials explain. The demonstration was part of Intelsat’s ongoing ecosystem work validating the compatibility of existing hardware with Intelsat’s EpicNG high-throughput satellites.

“This demonstration proves that modems using beam-switching technology will support UAS operations at very high data rates on high-throughput satellites,” says Skot Butler, vice president, Satellite Networks & Space Services at Intelsat General. “This capability is an important step in the evolution of satellite communications for these critical platforms. Intelsat’s EpicNG also provides inherent protection from signal jamming and greater throughput for full-motion video and other bandwidth-hungry payloads.”

The over-the-satellite demonstration was conducted on Intelsat’s Horizons-1 satellite using three separate bandwidth segments and a navigation simulator representing a UAS flying through three separate high-throughput spot beams on a single Intelsat EpicNG-class satellite. Using an L-3 CS-West hub and terminal modems for the end-to-end test, engineers measured the performance of full-motion video and Internet Protocol (IP) data between the UAS and the hub controller as the system automatically switched both frequency and polarization while the aircraft flew through the three separate beams.

The new Intelsat EpicNG satellites are designed to increase UAS data rate performance by 200 to 300 percent via their high-throughput spot beams and enable broadband performance to antennas with apertures smaller than 30 cm. This demonstration validated that the UAS could automatically switch between these beams without user intervention, thereby simplifying operations while leveraging this increased throughput, officials say.

“Through our collaboration with Intelsat, both airborne and ground users will be able to upgrade the software on existing L-3 wideband modems to provide automatic beam switching capabilities for service on high-throughput satellites like Intelsat’s EpicNG,” says Andy Ivers, president of L-3 Communication Systems-West. “These results mark an important milestone in providing our customers the ability to modernize their existing assets within today’s fiscally constrained defense budget environment.”

Following the demonstration, Intelsat General and L-3 CS-West plan to conduct further tests with user platforms employing the Intelsat EpicNG IS-29 satellite.

Intelsat EpicNG is a high-performance, next-generation satellite platform that delivers global high-throughput technology via a novel approach to satellite and network architecture utilizing C-, Ku-, and Ka-bands, wide beams, spot beams, and frequency reuse technology. The Intelsat EpicNG series digital payload will be instrumental in allowing flexible and efficient use of spectrum, resulting in a dramatic increase in the amount of throughput delivered on these satellites.

Intelsat EpicNG is based on open architecture and engineered for backwards compatibility, allowing broadband, media, mobility, and government organizations to realize the cost-efficiency of using existing hardware. At the same time, increased control means these organizations can build on their success by offering their end-users customized, differentiated solutions — even defining such service characteristics as speed, hardware, and network topology.

Intelsat General provides satellite communications solutions to military, commercial and government customers over Intelsat’s fleet of approximately 50 satellites and a global terrestrial network of teleports and fiber infrastructure. Intelsat General also offers these customers the option of placing a dedicated hosted communications payload aboard an Intelsat satellite. From remote military outposts, disaster recovery sites and U.S. embassies to health and homeland security agencies, Intelsat General’s solutions support even the most complex operations, from routine to mission-critical, anywhere on the globe. These solutions address the numerous communications challenges inherent in a wide range of applications. From Airborne ISR/UAV scenarios to Distance Learning to Logistics, Intelsat General engineers can enhance government, military and commercial communications to allow customers to achieve their mission objectives.

Intelsat General and L-3 Communication Systems-West demo automatic beam switching for UAS on Intelsat EpicNGIntelsat General and L-3 Communication Systems-West demo automatic beam switching for UAS on Intelsat EpicNG

Intelsat S.A. (NYSE:I) operates the world’s first Globalized Network, delivering high-quality, cost-effective video and broadband services anywhere in the world, company officials say. Intelsat’s Globalized Network combines the world’s largest satellite backbone with terrestrial infrastructure, managed services and an open, interoperable architecture to enable customers to drive revenue and reach through a new generation of network services. Thousands of organizations serving billions of people worldwide rely on Intelsat to provide ubiquitous broadband connectivity, multi-format video broadcasting, secure satellite communications and seamless mobility services. The end result is an entirely new world, one that allows us to envision the impossible, connect without boundaries and transform the ways in which we live.

L-3 Communication Systems-West (L-3 CS-West) develops communications systems for high-performance intelligence collection, imagery processing, and satellite communications for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and other government agencies. The company provides high data rate, wideband, protected, real-time communications systems for surveillance, reconnaissance, and other airborne intelligence collection systems.


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