DUBAI - A move to a new standard communications band is needed because of a saturation of current bandwidth, French Air Chief of Staff Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros said Nov. 12.
Increasingly relied-upon unmanned aerial vehicles such as Predators, Reapers and the French Harfang generate huge amounts of data, including full motion video, and complex sensors such as high definition video, laser designators, imaging radar, ground moving target indicators and multispectral imagers demand high bandwidth for transmission, Palomeros told an Air Chiefs conference ahead of the Dubai Airshow's Nov. 13 opening.
Planners estimate a large bandwidth is needed because of a "multitasking of UAVs," with many remote piloted vehicles being operated simultaneously, Palomeros said.
Some 20 gigabits per second is needed to cope with the growing number of UAVs, which are swamping the current Ku bandwidth available on satellite communications links.
"Ka band appears to me as an interesting option," even if the signals are much more sensitive to weather conditions, Palomeros said.
Some technology has been developed, dubbed adaptive codage modulation, that limits the weather's impact on the signal, but a good solution would be to get industry to furnish a dual-band Ku-Ka antenna, Palomeros said.
"This option allows us to benefit from the maturity of the Ku, while anticipating the potential benefits of the Ka-band," he said.
Among "pragmatic options" for boosting UAV efficiencies, Palomeros suggested:
■ Chat rooms between coalition UAV operators, to allow coordination of surveillance missions and to boost interoperability.
■ Greater training in simulation to improve joint operations of UAVs and to overcome "ignorance of UAV performance" among ground commanders.
■ Fuse and share imagery, communication and signal intelligence as a single intelligence chain of command; to think of intelligence as a "whole operational concept" and not as "different pillars."
■ Operate UAVs as elements of a distributed air operation in which the air vehicles work alongside manned aircraft such as the Rafale, so they contribute to the entire mission set of an air operation.
■ Co-locate experts in the same unit, so intelligence professionals can provide the best situational awareness in near real-time in their specific domain, and intelligence experts should deploy regularly to keep information up to date.
■ Develop software to allow automatic detection of "suspicious activity," although most of the time human intelligence and operational expertise will be more effective than sophisticated software.
■ Work on autonomous flight rather than target detection, with manual override for pilots on the ground to reroute.
As an example of the concept of operations to be expected in UAV use, Palomeros showed a video in which a Rafale pilot used data from a Predator UAV to cross cue the designation pod on the French warplane, allowing the pilot to locate and identify a target....