General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has performed what it claims is the first Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) high-frequency (HF) command and control (C2) demonstration with an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The company has developed a C2 capability that does not require a Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link and can provide BLOS connectivity at distances of up to 8,000 miles, depending on transmit power and link geometry.
An MQ-9A Block 5 unmanned aircraft was used for the demo, equipped with the U.S. Government’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy software. The aircraft was flown with improved diagonal tails with conformal HF antennas incorporated into the leading edges.
The MQ-9A was also fitted with a FlexRadio Systems FLEX-6600 HF software-defined radio and associated hardware, which was used to translate and execute an autonomous mission plan. GA-ASI created a specialized HF software adapter to manage the unique latency and throughput constraints of the HF waveform to demonstrate BLOS command and control of the aircraft.
The MQ-9A was flown out of Laguna Army Air Field/Yuma Proving Grounds and commanded from Austin, Texas approximately 1,000 miles away over an HF C2 link. This new capability enables the aircraft to operate even in SATCOM-denied, contested environments.
David R. Alexander, President of GA-ASI, commented: “We demonstrated a BLOS assured Command & Control capability that can be used in contested or denied environments. GA-ASI is committed to developing a flexible UAS architecture with assured C2 that is relevant in a broad set of mission scenarios.”