Unmanned aerial communications platforms
Communications will be critical in a future defence concept that is based on rapid information gathering, dissemination and exploitation. All communications platforms will be considered high value targets. Unmanned aerial vehicles will be especially well suited for “dull, dirty and dangerous” communications missions. Service availability under all conditions is identified as the most important factor when considering different systems. Long endurance and high altitude are two commonly acknowledged ways to achieve this. The difficulties in developing platforms that can achieve both extreme altitude and extreme endurance within the timeframe of a few years are discussed. It is found that certain types of existing and emerging long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles are suitable for communications tasks, whereas current “tactical” and mini-UAVs are found to be unsuitable. It may prove costly to achieve system tolerance to losses with existing types of platforms. Other concepts aimed at achieving long single-platform endurance and system robustness to losses, using existing technology, are suggested and discussed.