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Roke Manor develops communications payload for Zephyr

Roke Manor develops communications payload for Zephyr
Roke Manor develops communications payload for Zephyr. Roke Manor has been
<p><strong>Roke Manor</strong> has been contracted under the UK&rsquo;s Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) to develop a communications payload for high-altitude unmanned air vehicles. The system is being developed with the<strong> Airbus Defence &amp; Space Zephyr </strong>pseudo satellite in mind.</p> <p><img alt="Asset Image" src="https://www.flightglobal.com/assets/getasset.aspx?itemid=63791" style="margin:0px" /></p> <p>Airbus Defence &amp; Space</p> <p>While not intended exclusively for integration with Zephyr, due to the export focus of the DGP, the high-altitude pseudo satellite was considered during the design of the High Altitude Cellular Communications payload, and Roke is keen for it to be tested using the long-endurance aircraft.</p> <p>&ldquo;Although the Zephyr is an obvious candidate, we anticipate other countries will at some stage in the near future be creating similar offerings,&rdquo; Bob Dalgleish, business development manager for space and defence at Roke, says. &ldquo;The Zephyr platform is a logical vehicle for this technology, however, given its ability to provide persistent surveillance from 60,000ft.&rdquo;</p> <p>He adds that the proposed sensor system takes into consideration the Zephyr&rsquo;s size, weight and power constraints, but the company is interested in utilising the technology on board a range of suitable UAVs.</p> <p>The data link payload will communicate with ground-based cellular infrastructure at a distance of 50km, transmitting high-bandwidth, real-time images and video, using commercial off-the-shelf 3G systems, alongside beamforming technology to transmit to a defined point.</p> <p>The new payload activity was announced by Roke on 9 December, and follows a contract award made under the DGP Defence Solutions Centre&rsquo;s (DSC) &pound;10 million ($15 million) Innovation Challenge on 15 October. The first phase of work will result in a concept demonstration, which is expected to occur at the end of January.</p> <p>Dalgleish says Roke will compete for the second phase of the effort &ndash; in mid-2016 &ndash; which is expected to result in a fully-working prototype by the end of the same year.</p> <p>&ldquo;Within the UK, since the Ministry of Defence has funded this DSC call, we hope that our technology will be taken forwards in a funded UK MoD demonstration programme involving high-altitude, long-endurance UAV platforms, which may or may not be the Zephyr vehicle itself,&rdquo; Dalgleish says. With the correct funding, an airworthy demonstration could take place within 12-18 months, he adds.</p> <p>The UK government announced in November&#39;s Strategic Defence and Security Review that it was committing &quot;investment in advanced high-altitude surveillance aircraft&rdquo;; a reference which is understood to have concerned the Zephyr.</p>