Itty-Bitty Datalink

By John Liang / March 1, 2011 at 6:39 PM

The Army is asking the defense industry to provide ideas on the potential development of a datalink for small unmanned aerial systems, according to a notice published today on Federal Business Opportunities.

"This solicitation is issued for the purpose of obtaining information to serve as a market survey to aid in research associated with the potential development of a Small Digital Data Link (SDDL) for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions," the Army's request for information reads.

"The Government does not presently intend to award a contract, but desires information on risk, capability, price, innovative research and development methodology and other information in planning the development of a[n] SDDL," the notice states. The Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL, posted the request.

The service is seeking information from industry "to serve as a market survey to aid in research associated with the development of a[n] SDDL designed to provide a secure data link for control and sensor data for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions over the operating temperatures ranges from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to +140 degrees Fahrenheit and withstand storage from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to +140 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity shall not degrade operations."

Consequently, "the Government expects to receive technical data describing the proposed concept and innovative methodology information to assist in the following: (1) Determine the ability of current and near term emerging technology to support an SDDL, (2) Identify feasible alternatives that meet the objectives stated below, (3) Determine the approximate research and development cost and schedule, and end-item cost information for each alternative, and (4) Determine the estimated performance characteristics and risks associated with each alternative," the notice states, adding: "Interested and capable sources are asked to submit a white paper containing a description of the above areas of interest. Information on available, emerging, or required technologies and how these technologies could be applied to this project should also be included."

The Army wants interested contractors to submit a white paper "containing a description of the above areas of interest," according to the notice. "Submissions should focus on information concerning available, emerging, or required SDDL technologies, circuit miniaturization technology and information assurance technologies for which proof-of-concept has been demonstrated at least at the subsystem/component level, and for which an implementation roadmap for a form-factored system solution has been identified and is clearly communicated.

"The white paper responses shall be written from a system solution perspective showing how the technologies identified above would be integrated into an SDDL materiel solution, tested, and qualified for military application in a typical military operating environment," the notice continues. Furthermore:

Interested and capable sources may respond to one or all of the following technical areas.

1. Complete SDDL system solution including all technical aspects.

2. Circuit miniaturization. - Respond with technologies for reducing size and weight of the device.

3. Information Assurance (IA) - Respond only with algorithms, methods and device solutions for implementing cryptographic requirements.

Technical objectives: This section enumerates the high-level functional capabilities for SDDL. The contemplated SDDL would provide the ground combatant Soldier a NLOS day/night all weather capable secure data link for control and sensor data for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions. SDDL provide secure uplink and downlink real time full motion downlink video between the GCS and munitions by means of digital data link.

SDDL will provide at least two frequency bands that will be used to transmit and receive data from a ground control station. Transmit and receive circuitry should be modular to allow for future frequency bands. Power requirements for the system must be less than 5W while transmitting. Transmit and receive range will be greater than 5KM including environmental effects.

A significant reduction in circuit size and weight beyond current fielded units shall be achieved. Advanced materials and processes may be used to achieve the desired size and weight. Total volume of all components must be less than 2 cubic inches. Total weight of SDDL shall be less than 2 oz.

The IA portion of the SDDL solution requires the link to include a method to prevent unauthorized parties from gaining control of the SDDL platform and ensures that uplink commands and downlink video in the channel is secure. The IA solution includes NSA Certified Type 1 encryption for all control and video traffic, encryption keying scheme, and node authentication system.