Innovative Design Process Fastracks UAV Laser Comms Development

Establishing communication between air-to-ground, air-to-air and air-to-space using photonics is increasingly attracting attention, due to the potential advantages related to transmission speed, low Size Weight and Power (SWaP) systems, spectrum regulation as well as immunity to electromagnetic interference.

Efstratios Kehayas,VP,Space Photonics
Stratos Kehayas,CTO

机载通信平台可用于将时间关键信息与低轨道或地球静止轨道上的地面站或航天器进行近实时的上/下链接。无人机或无人机间的高空平台,如伪卫星,可以用来建立低延迟,高速数据网络。此外,在航空航天和国防领域使用自由空间激光通信的动机集中在在为情报、监视和侦察(ISR)在射频拒绝环境中建立安全可靠的高速链路。基于激光的数据链路本质上是安全的,不受干扰和欺骗,与传统的射频技术相比,传输无法被检测到。

相当大的投资正在推动能够托管有效载荷的先进空气平台,以实现各种应用,如通信,传亚搏开户网址感和安全性。这些平台提供的功能与光子技术获得的优势相结合,有可能使全新的多种多样化的带宽民用或防御应用程序。

Having identified satellite/UAV laser communications and space photonics as a主要增长区,G&H正在通过开发特定于应用专用的子系统的系统方式以系统化的方式解决,通过我们在空气和空间级组件的设计和制亚搏开户网址造方面的相当大的经验。通过将这些组件集成到高值系统中,实现了下一代激光通信终端和传感设备的键构造块。在商业和研发合同的框架内,我们在大西洋两侧的光纤模块中推进了最先进的,利用我们在我们的世界领先的专业知识core enabling photonic technologies

Research and development of aerospace and space hardware is typically characterized by high cost and long timescales. The ability to innovate quickly and efficiently in order to demonstrate the potential of a technology through flight demonstrations is vital. In this way it’s possible to to gain insight into the possible initial performance, stimulate early interest, accelerate technology diffusion and reinforce subsequent commercialization phases. A prime example of the above rationale of quick route to flight is the recent development work carried out by G&H (Torquay) in close collaboration with Airbus Group in Newport, Wales. Under the auspices of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) project called Airstart, we have been responsible for building a low SWaP high-power fiber optic Gb/s transmitter to be used for demonstrating UAV to ground laser communications. The challenges of mass and power targets, quick timescales and no margin for error, were counter-acted by the strong desire to push the performance envelope and think outside the box; characteristics and ambitions which resonate highly with our engineers across the G&H group.

在G&H(Torquay)测试的UAV激光发射机。
图1。在G&H(Torquay)测试的无人机激光发射器。

激光发射器的设计阶段需要在涉及光学,电气和机械工程师的多学科团队之间进行快速并发的工程努力。为了符合严格的性能和交换目标,该团队必须优化系统的光学性能,采用G&H光电和熔融部件,并使用适用于机械部件的添加制造。系统设计依赖于新的G&H分布式反馈(DFB)激光器,其功率低于传统的地面级高功率DFB激光器,G&HHI-RELfused fiber couplers and a G&H high-power amplifier to boost the signal to multi-Watt levels. The mechanical and overall system design followed a holistic approach with ‘blurred’ boundaries between G&H and Airbus. This was imperative in order to generate a unit that would make optimal use of available resources in terms of mass, volume and power. Use of additive manufacturing resulted in a combination of plastic and metal parts for assembling and integrating fiber optic and electronic components. 3D printing also enabled heat management through structures otherwise not manufacturable with traditional CNC machining. Close collaboration, open channels of communication and multiple brainstorming meetings between the G&H and Airbus Group Innovations (AGI) teams were key in order to rapidly progress into the hardware development phase.

Having established key performance requirements, the laser transmitter was assembled and tested. Due to time and budget constraints, the team had a single shot in getting this right. The laser system was successfully assembled and tested at G&H in December 2016. Following preliminary performance testing and fit checks, it was transported to Airbus in Newport for system integration and further pre-flight electrical and optical evaluation. The Airbus laser pod containing the G&H laser transmitter successfully completed its maiden flight on 25 May 2017 on-board Southampton University’s Spotter UAV.

携带激光吊舱、G&H激光发射器、G&H激光和电子板的侦察无人机
图2。携带激光吊舱、G&H激光发射器、G&H激光和电子板的侦察无人机。

这次航班示范的重要性是三倍。首先,从技术的角度来看,它允许对该领域的激光发射器进行初步评估,这将馈送随后的重新设计,优化工作和最终产品开发。亚搏开户网址其次,它展示了G&H垂直集成能力的上限,因为在英国和美国的两种不同G&H网站中,系统所需组件,模块和子系统的设计和开发。亚搏开户网址最后但并非最不重要的是,它表明,通过在所涉及的组织内的小工程组之间建立信任链接,可以有效地实现A&D的创新。G&H和Airbus开始合作的触发是在DSTL事件中遇到的两个团队领导之间的非正式会议的结果。G&H(Torquay)的第一个随访头脑风暴会话导致了一个页面目标规范文件,这是启动活动的基础。本文件实际上从一张空白的纸张会议期间起草。项目工作所需的不可或缺的成分来自一开始:互信,团队精神和高水平的奉献精神。经过规范文件和合规矩阵的项目会议被替换为开放式头脑风暴的工程师之间的技术会议,这些技术会议分享了他们将设计的系统的兴奋。两支球队整体上的集体责任,并无缝地工作以解决它们在出现的问题上,而不关注合同界限和规范责任。 The G&H team is grateful to Yoann Thueux (AGI team leader), Gavin Erry (AGI Senior Scientist), Edward Kingston (EK Electronics Design Engineer), and Malcolm Watson (AVoptics Principal Research Engineer) for this smooth collaboration.

G&H engineers in laboratory
图3。G&H UAV激光发射器随时准备运输到空中客车和G&H开发团队(从左到右):Marios Kechagias(工程技术人员),马亚搏开户网址修韦尔奇(Photonic Systems工程师),Stratos Kehayas(VP R&D),Richard Webb(机械设计师),利亚姆Henwood-Moroney(电子工程师)。

The short but intense experience with Airstart has vividly shown that facilitating innovation can sometimes equally relate to the business methodologies and company structures as well as to the actual technology challenges ahead. Maintaining small agile teams of motivated, capable and enthusiastic engineers within larger organizations can be key in order to foster innovation in the A&D sector and within medium/large industrial organizations.

Did everything go as planned? Of course not. We did however manage to solve the problems by working together as a team. Would we do it again? Definitely! What are our plans and next steps? Stay tuned!

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