The UK Ministry of Defence has selected an Ultra Electronics/Cubic team to conduct a one-year study contract to set specifications for a back-up high-integrity datalink (HIDL) for unmanned air vehicles. The MoD is providing about $200,000, with the companies contributing an undisclosed amount.

The contract grows out of the NATO Maritime UAV (MUAV) international technology demonstrator programme, under which the UK is responsible for interoperable datalink development. The MUAV was to utilise the US-developed wideband Tactical Common Datalink and the HIDL, which has a narrowband broadcast-networked architecture with command/control uplink and telemetry/status downlink, limited narrowband sensor downlink, multiple air vehicle control and launch and recovery capabilities.

Last year, however, the UK joined the US Department of Defense's vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV demonstration programme as part of a move to restructure London's role in the MUAV project.

The UK redirected datalink development funding towards purchasing two Raytheon Tactical Control Stations and Multiple UAV Simulation Environment systems to help determine its need for a maritime reconnaissance system. It also agreed to fund a study to define the requirements for full function and control of VTOL UAV take-off and landings.

The move meant funding was available to conduct an HIDL study. UK defence officials would like to see Ultra/Cubic internally fund an HIDL technology demonstrator for an estimated $3 million. "Its really the only way we'll ever sell HIDL for UAV applications", they say.

Industry chiefs hope HIDL will be adopted by the UK and USA as their primary UAV datalink. They believe it would be more robust for command and control in a jamming environment while offering data transmission capabilities.

Source: Flight International