Teleconferencing over the Nevada desert as Cyberdefense Systems' SA-60 transmits and receives data

A lightweight conformal antenna that can be "painted" onto the exterior of an aircraft has been tested on an airship in the Nevada desert.

Antennas were applied to the exterior of a Cyberdefense Systems SA-60 airship at various points, which transmitted and received voice and data channels via the Iridium satellite constellation.

A US Air Force Research Laboratory small business research programme has funded the conformal antenna work. "Iridium bit error rate data transmission and receptions were tested and voice communications to and from the airship with teleconferencing were tested successfully," says Cyberdefense Systems. The 1.57m (62in)-diameter SA-60 has a 5h endurance, cruise speed of 30kt (56km/h) at 7,500-10,000ft (2,140-3,050m) and can carry a 227kg (500lb) payload.

US companies Applied EM and Unitech are developing the conformal antenna technology.

In related research, the US Air Force has developed a low-frequency band, active electronically scanned array radar that also functions as a load-bearing part of an airframe. It will be flight tested within the next two years.

Source: Flight International