US: A team of researchers have developed a tracking system that is based on eye-safe lasers. The system is known as HYPERION and is built under a program that consisted a group of researchers from the University of Oxford and Airbus Group Innovations with Innovate UK support. The tracking system enables aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and even orbiting satellites to transmit vital data to ground stations more securely, quickly and efficiently.
The team claims to have proved the concept system with a range of 1km has been successfully tested in-flight, with work to extend this range underway. As well as transmission of data from UAVs and satellites, HYPERION could also enable airliners of the future to offload huge amounts of technical and performance data gathered by on-board sensors to ground crews during final approach to an airport, speeding maintenance procedures and cutting turn-round times.
John Laughlin, aerospace programme lead at Innovate UK, said: “Collaborations such as these between industry and academia to develop new disruptive solutions to existing challenges are essential to the success of the UK aerospace sector.”
This optical system aims a laser with a wavelength of 1550nm from the ground towards the target aircraft, which is equipped with a reflector that captures the beam, modifies it with the data to be transmitted and then sends it back to the ground where it can be decoded and ‘read’. With its optimised aircraft tracking capability and secure high-speed data link, HYPERION is claimed to be less vulnerable to interception and jamming than current RF communications that rely on an increasingly crowded part of the electromagnetic spectrum.