New Tech to Enable Better Satellite-Drone Communications

satellite-drone communications

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A new beam-switching technology was recently tested proving data transfer and anti-jamming measures between satellites and drones are more successful when two beams are used instead of one.

The test was carried out on a MQ-9 Predator drone. Over the course of the testing, the drone flew 1,075 nautical miles and was able to switch smoothly between two spot beams multiple times throughout the trial.

While traditional wide-beam satellites use one beam to cover thousands of miles, the satellites using the Intelsat Epic NG platform use spot beams that are just about 600 miles across, Intelsat General President Skot Butler, told

“These tests demonstrate the capability… to support aircraft as they travel long distances across multiple spot beams,” Butler said. “The images and other data collected by unmanned aircraft systems are critical for many military operations.”

The newly tested beam-switching technology for the Predator drone has two primary benefits: improved data transfer and improved resiliency.

The beam-switching technology might soon be ready for smaller drones as well. The sheer signaling power of Intelsat’s high throughput satellites means that receiving antenna can be smaller, Butler said, and are now small and light enough to be deployed on small drones.