Northrop Grumman’s Firebird demonstrator aircraft bounced live video off a satellite at speeds previously unattainable for small aircraft thanks to a lightweight satellite communications system adapted from spacecraft, announced the company. “It’s a game changer for those that need high-quality, real-time data, but don’t want to—or can’t—have a large, heavy communications system onboard,” said Brett Amidon, director of technology for the company’s aerospace systems. “Our system provides beyond-line-of-sight capabilities in a compact, lightweight, low-profile package,” he said. The small SATCOM system utilizes gallium nitride technology, which takes up little physical space, but allows for transmitting high-volume data, such as video, at extremely high rates, according to the company Dec. 12 release. For the recent demo, Northrop Grumman engineers bundled the SATCOM system into a compact pancake-shaped dish atop the Firebird. The system transmitted full-motion video from a sensor, via satellite, to a ground station.
While some of the Air Force's newly announced changes will happen quickly, it may take most of Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin's tenure in the job to accomplish the rest, he said in a Brookings Institution event Feb. 28.