Hughes Begins Delivering Next-Gen Modems for Remotely-Piloted Aircraft

First shipments will power communications for the SkyGuardian vehicle.

Hughes Network Systems has started delivering its new HM400 satellite modems for use in remotely-piloted aircraft (RPAs).

The HM400 uses software-definable modem technology as well as Hughes’ own scrambled code multiple access (SCMA) waveform—a platform that allows smaller antennas to use bandwidth more efficiently to extend its capabilities. It allows high data throughput rates that can process high-definition video and data transmissions over multiple frequencies (L-, Ku-, Ka-, Mil Ka, and X-band).

The modem also gives RPAs the capability to access satellite communications services around the world through existing VSAT and MobileSat service providers or through customer-specific networks and gateways. It has been designed with a commercially-based open standards architecture that maximizes cost-effectiveness and versatility, allows it to be operated alongside a wide variety of system components. This ensures that the modem will be able to support any kind of mission, including intelligence gathering, border patrol, search and rescue, disaster response, wildfire and storm monitoring, military operations, airborne geological surveys and oil platform communications.

This versatility is enhanced with new measures that increase its resiliency and its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as high-altitude flight, lightning strikes, and electromagnetic interference.

The HM400’s adaptability makes it an ideal component for multi-purpose RPAs—so it’s fitting that the first shipment of the modem is going to General Atomics for its SkyGuardian aircraft. Also known as the Predator, this RPA is used in a variety of military and commercial roles, featuring a modular layout that is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads.

“Hughes develops innovative technology to suit customer needs and, in this case, our HM400 was customized for GA-ASI’s resilient communications-on-the-move requirements for their SkyGuardian RPA,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of Hughes Defense and Intelligence Systems Division. “We’re excited to be part of GA-ASI’s team and starting the delivery of HM400 units for their next-generation platform.”

General Atomics MQ-9B Sky Guardian at RAF Fairford RIAT 2018 AirShow.

Unpiloted aircraft are being used in increasingly diverse sectors, and the industry is expected to grow by 13 percent annually over the next few years. Resilient and adaptable instruments like the HM400 promise to be an important part of this booming market.

Read more about developments in unpiloted aircraft use at 5 Fascinating New Ways UAVs Are Being Used in Construction.