Lightning Fast SATCOM in a Small Package

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.