Continued Emergence of SATCOM BLOS for Airborne ISR

Written by Garr R. Stephenson, Jr., Head of the Airborne Comms-On-The-Move Division, UltiSat, Inc.
Published in the September 2015 Edition of MilSatMagazine

In 2015, we see the continued emergence of SATCOM Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS), from the growing requirements to the increasing capabilities.  The need to combine real-time mobility operations and reach-back communications for warfighters and government users around the world to share mission-critical applications and information continues to be essential.   The challenge of meeting the needs while maintaining and even enhancing defense capability in critical areas to counter unforeseeable asymmetric and conventional warfare threat environments has not decreased and will not for the foreseeable future.

For this, Airborne ISR applications have been the most important asset for supporting military operations due to the increased pressures on improving situational awareness for military personnel protection spread out in smaller, more expeditionary locations.  In less than a decade, the relevance and reliance on satellite communications for delivering these high value ISR applications’ information has become one of the primary requirements in the tactical planning for concepts of operation. The ability to deliver all ISR application and sensor data over large areas of the globe with little to no latency is not only a staple now but also a “must-have”. This requirement is no longer a desire; it has now become a demand.

Solution providers are asked to deliver high data rate applications over an IP network via satellite communications, while being secure and persistent.  Couple these demands with the pivot to unmanned platforms and the multiple variations in the payloads available on the wide range of these UAS platforms and you have a complex problem on your hands. Add to that the fact that regardless of the wide range of sizes and shapes of these UAS there is still expectation that the SATCOM systems will perform the same across all of these platforms.  Addressing this problem with all of these factors will not reside in a singular, closed and vertically integrated “square peg” for all of these “rounds holes.”  The answer resides in flexible, open systems architecture that can be integrated seamlessly to act and perform better than closed, vertically integrated solutions do on their own and meet all of the varying degrees of systems integration against the wide array of available airborne assets today.

It used to be that organizations, military and commercial, needed to choose solutions based on a vertical or horizontal integration approach, where arguments 10-20 years ago could easily be split down the middle on the best approach and why. Today, however, technologies are primarily based on commercial, open architecture.  Open system solutions provide an advantage in getting the most out of your Airborne Communications without limiting an ability to address future requirements and changes, which are not necessarily known today.

Commercial organizations are continuing to advance COTS technology at an expedited rate and for the first time are able to exceed these increasing demands for higher data rate applications such as full motion video.  Previous generations could only rely on a handful of closed, vertically integrated options to choose from. Today, we benefit from multiple options that introduce the highest value to the end user through increased performance at a lower cost and the ability to scale or adapt to changing requirements.  There are multiple modems and antenna systems available to integrate together to provide a true, best of breed capability.  The customer should no longer be forced to pick from a single, packaged offering, but should insist and demand flexible solutions that will adapt with the requirements over time as they continue to evolve and migrate along with our warfighter.

By eliminating complex, resource-intensive proprietary systems, the end user no longer needs to be concerned that as soon a capability is deployed it is no longer an advanced technology.  Commercial systems provide the leverage to stay ahead of the latest technology advances without concession on economics, security, and performance.

As a leader in Airborne ISR, UltiSat continues to leverage open systems based architecture to provide the right “round peg” for global satellite solutions for manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). We will continue to fulfill our part in delivering mission critical airborne ISR operations for each of our customers’ “round holes”.

About the Author:
Garr R. Stephenson Jr. heads up the Airborne Comms-On-The-Move business unit at UltiSat, Inc. UltiSat is a global SATCOM and network services company, providing innovative strategies for the growing demand of Airborne applications without compromise for security, scalability and flexibility. UltiSat is currently supporting Airborne COTM networks on manned Fixed Wing and UAV Programs for domestic and international customers.


UltiSat Inc., a Speedcast Company, is a global leader in the provision of mission-critical, managed network solutions and high-touch professional services. Our products and services incorporate Fixed Satellite Service (FSS), Mobile Satellite Service (MSS), wireless and terrestrial technologies.

We support a wide array of customer applications including treaty compliance monitoring, broadband connectivity for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), logistics management, maritime and tactical converged networks, and Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AISR).

UltiSat solutions are offered to end users in some of the most remote and harsh locations in over 135 countries on 7 continents around the globe. With customer networks that vary from a few sites to hundreds of locations, UltiSat's technical expertise and technology-agnostic approach ensures that our customers get the best-fit/best-value solutions.

UltiSat customers include U.S. and foreign government agencies, government contractors, and Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs). 

UltiSat's global infrastructure and technical expertise means we have the reach and know-how needed to design large-scale, complex networks anywhere in the world.