Airbus Partners with VDL Groep to Develop Laser Communication Terminals for Aircraft

Airbus and VDL Groep are joining forces to develop and produce laser communication terminals for aircraft, known as UltraAir. This technology will enable high-speed data transfer via laser links between a network of ground stations and satellites that orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. By using advanced technology, including a highly stable and accurate optical mechatronic system, laser communication terminals will be able to achieve transmission speeds of gigabits per second while also preventing interference and ensuring a low probability of interception.

The initial stages of the partnership will involve the development and production of a prototype, with plans for an initial test flight in 2024. This builds upon the previous developments initiated by aerospace company Airbus and research organization TNO.

One key application of UltraAir technology is its ability to allow military aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles to connect with a multi-domain combat cloud through the use of laser-based satellite constellations such as the SpaceDataHighway network from Airbus. This represents a significant milestone in Airbus’s strategy to drive laser communication further and position the technology as a key differentiator for government and defense customers. In the long term, the technology could also be implemented on commercial aircraft to improve in-flight data connections for passengers.

Laser communication technology represents the next revolution in satellite communications (satcom) as a solution to data traffic in the quantum age. With the growing demand for satellite services, the capacity limits of traditional radio frequencies for satellite communication are being reached. However, laser satellite communication will allow for the processing of a thousand times more data at ten times the speed of the current network. Laser links also offer the advantages of low levels of interference and potential detection, making them a more secure option than radio links.

The collaboration between Airbus and VDL includes the development of a demonstration model and prototype for UltraAir, as well as the necessary further steps required to produce UltraAir in volume. VDL ETG Almelo will handle production as well as supply critical systems, among other activities. Airbus will then market UltraAir. VDL ETG Almelo also brings their expertise in system architecture and design to the project. The development of UltraAir has been made possible through investments from Airbus and VDL Groep and is supported by the European Space Agency’s ScyLight (Secure and Laser Communication Technology) program, and by the allocation of the Dutch National Growth Fund NxtGen Hightech proposal, led by TNO and a group of Dutch companies.

No Replies to "Airbus Partners with VDL Groep to Develop Laser Communication Terminals for Aircraft"