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Small unmanned aerial vehicles of the US military will be equipped with a robust, on-demand, highly-secure communications network that will address the growing electronic warfare capabilities of the country’s adversaries.

The project will help the Army set new waveform standards that maximize connectivity and minimize the risk of signal intercept. The solution will provide customers requiring enhanced, secure communication capabilities with a portable, practical solution for maintaining secret-level communications via tactical unmanned aircraft systems operating at the battlefield’s edge.

Viasat and AeroVironment will collaborate on the contract awarded under the U.S. Army Reconfigurable Communications for Small Unmanned Systems (RCSUS) initiative. 

The companies will develop and demonstrate advanced, encrypted communications suitable for AeroVironment’s portable, hand-launched Puma AE tactical UAS. They will seek to strengthen the communications and transmission security of AeroVironment’s Digital Data Link (DDL) radios currently used by the U.S. Army by converting them into a Type 1 crypto communication system for video and data transmission.

In addition, the companies will develop critical interoperability standards for enabling UAS to generate a secure, digitally encrypted communications network — for protecting classified data and improving waveform performance in jamming environments — via the embedded DDL waveform. 

They will also create a standardized communications architecture that will allow UAS to access spectrum quickly and easily, especially when operating in contested environments.

Currently, tens of thousands of AeroVironment tactical unmanned aircraft are deployed around the world and are capable of serving as secure, digital network communication nodes for on-demand, mesh network applications in various operating environments, according to uasweekly.com.