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Viasat and AeroVironment have announced they will collaborate on a contract awarded under the US Army Reconfigurable Communications for Small Unmanned Systems (RCSUS) initiative. The project will provide US military customers flying small UAS platforms the ability to deploy a robust, on-demand, highly-secure communications network that will address the growing EW capabilities of peer and near-peer adversaries.

Viasat is the prime contractor on the award and will work with AeroVironment to develop and demonstrate advanced, encrypted communications suitable for the latter’s portable, hand-launched PUMA AE tactical UAS. The two companies will seek to strengthen the communications and transmission security of the AeroVironment Digital Data Link (DDL) radios currently used by the Army, by converting them to a Type 1 crypto communication system for video and data transmission.

In addition, the companies will develop critical interoperability standards for enabling UAS to generate a secure, digitally-encrypted communications network—for protecting classified data and improving waveform performance in jamming environments—via the embedded DDL waveform. They will also create a standardised communications architecture that will allow UAS to access spectrum quickly and easily, especially when operating in contested environments.

Viasat’s robust military-grade cryptography and electronic countermeasure tactical waveform design will enable quick expansion of secure communications to a variety of small unmanned systems operating at the tactical edge,” commented Ken Peterman, President, Government Systems at Viasat. “By collaborating with AeroVironment, an established leader in the tactical UAS sector, we can help the US Army set new waveform standards that maximise connectivity and minimise the risk of signal intercept.”

Currently, tens of thousands of AeroVironment tactical unmanned aircraft are deployed around the world and are capable of serving as secure, digital network communication nodes for on-demand, mesh network applications in various operating environments.

As US forces plan for the potential of operating against peer and near-peer military adversaries possessing advanced electronic warfare capabilities, the need for even more secure communication capabilities is rapidly increasing,” explained Scott Newbern, AeroVironment’s Chief Technology Officer. “We will work with Viasat to provide customers requiring enhanced, secure communication capabilities with a portable, practical solution for maintaining secure communications via tactical unmanned aircraft systems operating at the battlefield’s edge.”

AeroVironment’s PUMA is the target platform for the latest development in encrypted communications capabilities. (Photo: AeroVironment)

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