General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) has ground tested its Airborne Laser Communication System (ALCoS) which is compatible with military drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper, by establishing a link with a satellite in Geo-synchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).
“This was the first demonstration of an air-to-space lasercom system with Size, Weight and Power (SWAP) that is compatible with a Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA),” the company said in a statement Thursday.
GA-ASI conducted the test with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT) company using their GEO Laser Communication Terminal (LCT), the LCT 135. The ALCoS was tested from an optical observatory located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and closed link with TESAT’s LCT 135 terminal onboard the GEO satellite Alphasat. The test demonstrated acquisition and tracking, and sufficient power to close the link with the LCT 135.
GA-ASI is now completing the development of the flight system for use on a MQ-9 RPA.
“This test was a critical step towards enabling our aircraft with a high-bandwidth communication system that cannot be jammed or detected by an adversary,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “ALCoS allows a new generation of high-performance sensors by breaking the data bottleneck of current RF SATCOM technology.”
ALCoS is the result of a five-year effort to deliver Low Probability of Intercept (LPI), Low Probability of Detect (LPD) communications link to the MQ-9. With 300 times the data carrying capacity of conventional RF SATCOM systems, ALCoS will be able to operate as a gateway to the Joint Aerial Network for forward-deployed forces.
The system has the capability to work in two optical wavelengths, 1064nm and 1550nm, the company said.