Optical data link successfully demonstrated between fighter plane and ground station

Manching, Germany, 19 December 2013
  • One hundred times faster real-time data transmission, even at high speeds
Cassidian' laser data link system achieved extraordinarily high data rates during flight tests with a Tornado combat aircraft. Photo: Cassidian

With a newly developed optical data link, Cassidian enables the real-time transmission of large amounts of data, such as reconnaissance videos, from a fast flying jet to the ground. Thanks to a one hundred times increase in transmission speed compared to conventional systems, in military or in civil operations, e.g. in disaster zones, more detailed situational information can be used more quickly and comprehensively than ever before.

Test flights were carried out at the end of November near Cassidian's Military Air Systems Center at Manching, Germany. For the first time it was possible to successfully operate a high-precision laser data link tracking system between a Tornado combat aircraft flying close to the speed of sound and a ground station over a range in excess of 60 kilometres. The data rate achieved during a fly-by of less than a minute was about 1 gigabit per second. This corresponds to about one hundred times the usual data rate thus far, for air-to-ground transmissions.

Until now, data links used classical radio signals which, owing to their low bandwidth, can only transmit high-resolution images or raw data from airborne reconnaissance sensors to a very limited extent in real time. For the first time, this new laser data link technology makes it possible to exploit the ever increasing performance of sensors. There will be a particular need for this in future, for unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with special radar reconnaissance systems and high-resolution cameras, which have to continuously send large amounts of data to a ground station.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR), based in Oberpfaffenhofen, was involved in the successful tests with their autonomous transportable optical ground station (TOGS), as well as ViaLight Communications.

About CASSIDIAN (www.cassidian.com)
Cassidian, the defence division of EADS, is a worldwide leader in defence and security solutions. The company delivers advanced defence systems along the whole action chain from sensors through command & control systems to combat aircraft and unmanned air systems. In the area of security, Cassidian provides customers worldwide with border surveillance systems, cyber security solutions and secure communications. In 2012, Cassidian – with around 23,000 employees – achieved revenues of € 5.7 billion.

Effective from January 1, 2014, Cassidian will be integrated into ‘Airbus Defence and Space' together with Airbus Military and Astrium.

Lothar Belz
Tel.: +49 (0)731 392 3681