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Empowering Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Swarms with Flying MANETs: Revolutionizing Battlefield Connectivity

In today’s battlefield, connectivity is essential. Soldiers need to be able to communicate with each other and with their commanders in order to coordinate their actions and share information. However, the battlefield environment is often hostile and can disrupt communications. This can put soldiers at risk and make it difficult for them to carry out their missions.

 

In modern warfare, the utilization of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has become increasingly prevalent. These autonomous flying machines play a vital role in gathering intelligence, conducting surveillance, and even carrying out targeted strikes. However, to maximize their potential and effectiveness, UAVs require seamless and robust connectivity in dynamic battlefield environments. This is where the concept of Flying Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANETs) comes into play, revolutionizing battlefield connectivity and empowering UAVs and swarms like never before.

 

Traditional communication methods, such as relying on fixed infrastructure or limited-range radio links, are often insufficient for supporting the agile and dynamic nature of UAV operations. Enter Flying MANETs, a paradigm that combines the principles of MANETs with UAV technology. Flying MANETs are self-organizing networks that can be created by a group of UAVs. These networks allow UAVs to communicate with each other even if they are not in range of a ground-based network.

 

With Flying MANETs, UAVs can establish ad-hoc networks on the fly, enabling real-time communication and collaboration between multiple aerial platforms, ground forces, and command centers.

 

The key advantage of Flying MANETs lies in their self-organizing and decentralized nature. Each UAV equipped with MANET capabilities acts as both a data node and a routing node, allowing for the seamless exchange of information within the network. This dynamic network topology ensures reliable connectivity even in scenarios where traditional infrastructure is unavailable or compromised.

 

One of the primary benefits of Flying MANETs is the ability to achieve mission flexibility and adaptability. UAV swarms, consisting of multiple coordinated UAVs, can operate as a cohesive unit, leveraging Flying MANETs to share critical data, coordinate maneuvers, and distribute tasks effectively. This collaborative approach enhances the swarm’s situational awareness and decision-making capabilities, enabling them to respond rapidly to changing battlefield conditions.

 

Furthermore, Flying MANETs provide enhanced coverage and range for UAV operations. By leveraging the mobility of UAVs, the network can extend its reach beyond line-of-sight limitations. This extended coverage allows for the deployment of UAVs in remote or hostile areas, providing real-time surveillance, reconnaissance, and communication capabilities that were previously unattainable.

Another crucial aspect of Flying MANETs is their resilience to disruptions. In dynamic and unpredictable battlefield scenarios, communication links can be easily compromised. If a UAV loses its connection to its operator, it can become a liability.

However, the decentralized and self-forming nature of Flying MANETs enables UAVs to adapt and reroute communications, even in the face of disruptions or interferences. This resilience ensures that critical information can still be transmitted and received, enhancing operational efficiency and maintaining situational awareness.

 

For an in-depth understanding on MANET technology and applications please visit: Mobile Ad hoc Networks (MANET): A Comprehensive Guide

MANETs  for UAVs

With the rapid advancement of technology, micro-UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are gaining significant attention in both military and civilian domains. These small aircraft are often deployed in swarms, forming a cohesive unit known as a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System). This approach offers numerous advantages, including cost-effectiveness and improved performance compared to individual UAVs. However, for a swarm of UAVs to operate effectively, they must establish reliable and efficient communication among themselves and with the control station. This can be achieved through the application of ad hoc networks or MANETs (Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks).

To achieve seamless connectivity at the tactical edge, it is crucial to develop advanced MANET technologies. An ideal MANET for UAVs should possess four key characteristics: strong connectivity, high bandwidth, effective security measures, and survivability in challenging environments. However, developing MANETs for UAVs presents several challenges. The mobility of nodes, constantly changing network topology, and specific communication requirements in terms of quality of service (such as delay, throughput, and loss rate) must be addressed.

UAV communication networks introduce unique challenges that require innovative solutions. Unlike many other wireless networks, UAV networks have a fluid topology, with the number of nodes and links constantly changing, and the relative positions of the nodes in constant flux. UAVs can move at varying speeds, leading to intermittent establishment of links. The traditional mobility models used for describing the behavior of nodes in mobile ad hoc networks or vehicular ad hoc networks are not entirely suitable for UAV networks. UAVs can move randomly or in organized swarms, not only in two dimensions but also in three dimensions, with rapid changes in position. In contrast, vehicular nodes are constrained to travel on roads and only in two dimensions.

Furthermore, the routing protocol for UAV networks cannot be a simple implementation of a proactive or reactive scheme. The inter-UAV backbone must constantly reorganize itself when UAVs fail, and in some cases, the network may become partitioned. Routing packets from a source to a destination while optimizing the chosen metric becomes a challenge in such scenarios. Additionally, seamless transfer of users’ sessions from an out-of-service UAV to an active UAV must be ensured. Finally, energy conservation strategies are necessary to prolong the lifespan of power-starved UAVs.

One practical example of utilizing MANETs in UAV operations is the Shadow UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) deployed at the BCT (Brigade Combat Team) level. The Shadow UAS is equipped with payload slots for two common BCT MANET radios. These radios enable aerial voice and data relay from high altitudes, reducing the need for ground relay sites and associated equipment and personnel. Aerial platforms offer extended coverage, improved unit security, and decreased risk of compromise. Although the Shadow UAS is primarily used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, the relay capabilities can be utilized without impacting its primary functions.

In summary, the deployment of micro-UAVs in swarms presents exciting possibilities in both military and civilian applications. However, to fully leverage the potential of UAVs operating as a swarm, robust and efficient communication networks such as MANETs are essential. Overcoming challenges related to node mobility, changing network topology, routing protocols, seamless session transfer, and energy conservation will be instrumental in realizing the benefits of UAV swarms. By continually advancing and optimizing MANET technologies, we can empower UAVs to operate effectively and revolutionize the way they contribute to various domains, including military operations and beyond.

 

MPU5 MANET radio selected for Resolute Eagle UAS integration

Persistent Systems’ MPU5 Wave Relay mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) radio has been selected by PAE ISR, a UAS surveillance service provider, for integration onto its Resolute Eagle UAS. The MPU5 radio is an advanced and scalable MANET solution that enables the creation of powerful and secure networks, allowing soldiers to stay connected and share critical information.

One of the key advantages of the MPU5 radio is its small size and weight, which will free up payload space and increase the endurance of the Resolute Eagle UAS. By incorporating the MPU5 radio, PAE ISR aims to rapidly disseminate critical information to mobile teams on the ground, positively impacting their mission effectiveness.

The MPU5 radio utilizes existing infrastructure to enhance the capacity of a wireless network. Its algorithm enables the integration of a large number of meshed devices into the network, forming a robust communication infrastructure. The radio supports live voice-over-internet protocols, video streaming, and other high-demand applications, ensuring reliable and efficient data transmission.

One of the notable features of the MPU5 radio is its ability to rapidly change between C-, L-, and S-bands by swapping Interchangeable Frequency Modules. This flexibility, combined with the Resolute Eagle’s large multi-intelligence payload capacity, provides a game-changing capability for PAE ISR. The Resolute Eagle UAS can achieve higher data rates and deliver near real-time actionable intelligence from its multi-intelligence sensors, thanks to the radio’s Wave Relay MANET technology.

Designed for operation in diverse environments, the Resolute Eagle UAS offers a compact form factor while being able to carry a comparatively large payload. With the integration of the MPU5 radio, the Resolute Eagle UAS gains enhanced connectivity, improved data transmission capabilities, and increased mission efficiency.

The selection of the MPU5 Wave Relay MANET radio by PAE ISR for integration onto the Resolute Eagle UAS highlights the significance of reliable and efficient communication in unmanned aerial systems. The advanced features and capabilities of the MPU5 radio make it a valuable asset in modern military and surveillance operations, enabling seamless connectivity and the sharing of critical information in real-time.

Persistent launches portable ground-to-air antenna for MPU5 radio

Persistent Systems has introduced an auto-tracking antenna system designed for their MPU5 smart radio, aiming to create a networked battlefield environment for soldiers. The portable ground-to-air antenna utilizes the Wave Relay mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) technology, which enables data routing around obstacles, optimizing network performance and mobility.

The system can be easily deployed in under 15 minutes and integrates aircraft into the MANET, extending the network coverage. The lightweight and collapsible design of the antenna includes a 5ft parabolic dish that breaks down into eight individual petals, enhancing portability.

Persistent Systems CEO Herb Rubens emphasizes that the auto-tracking antenna system is a significant step towards achieving a fully networked battlefield. The antenna tracks air assets, ensuring continuous connectivity to the MANET, with air platforms orbiting over ground users and extending the network coverage. This high-throughput, low-latency connectivity reduces dependence on SATCOM (satellite communications), lowering costs and increasing network availability.

The system features interchangeable S-Band, L-Band, and C-Band multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) feeds, enabling it to cover all frequencies used by the five radio modules of the company. Additionally, an automatic heading system allows the tracking antenna to self-calibrate for improved precision, offering less than one-degree pointing accuracy during operations.

Overall, the introduction of the auto-tracking antenna system for the MPU5 radio by Persistent Systems enhances connectivity, expands network coverage, and reduces reliance on SATCOM, providing soldiers with improved communication capabilities on the battlefield.

 

Recent Breakthroughs

In 2019, the US Army announced that it was developing a new flying MANET system called the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW).

SRW is a software-defined radio that can be used to create a flying MANET network between UAVs and ground-based devices. This will allow soldiers to communicate with UAVs even if they are not in range of a ground-based network.

Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW)

The Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) is a software-defined radio that can be used to create a flying MANET network between UAVs and ground-based devices. SRW is a key component of the Army’s Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program, which is designed to provide soldiers with a more secure and resilient communications network.

SRW is a software-defined radio, which means that it can be programmed to operate on different frequencies and protocols. This makes it more adaptable to changing battlefield conditions and more resistant to jamming. SRW is also a narrowband waveform, which means that it uses less bandwidth than traditional wideband waveforms. This makes it more efficient and less likely to interfere with other communications systems.

The SRW system is made up of three main components: the radio, the software, and the network. The radio is the physical device that sends and receives radio signals. The software is the code that runs on the radio and controls its operation. The network is the infrastructure that connects the radios together.

The SRW system is designed to be easy to use and maintain. The radio is small and lightweight, making it easy to carry and deploy. The software is user-friendly and can be updated easily. The network is designed to be self-organizing, so it can be set up quickly and easily.

 

In 2020, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a new type of flying MANET called a “swarm network.” Swarm networks are made up of a large number of small, inexpensive UAVs that can communicate with each other without the need for a central controller. This makes them more resilient to disruptions and easier to deploy than traditional flying MANETs.

Swarm networks work by using a technique called “swarm intelligence.” Swarm intelligence is a type of artificial intelligence that allows a group of individual agents to work together to solve a problem. In the case of swarm networks, the individual agents are the UAVs. The UAVs in a swarm network communicate with each other and coordinate their actions without the need for a central controller. This makes them more resilient to disruptions, because if one UAV is lost or damaged, the other UAVs can continue to operate.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the advent of Flying MANETs represents a significant advancement in empowering UAVs and swarms with enhanced battlefield connectivity. By combining the principles of MANETs with UAV technology, military forces can achieve unprecedented levels of mission flexibility, adaptability, and situational awareness. Flying MANETs enable real-time communication, collaboration, and data sharing, revolutionizing the way UAVs operate on the battlefield. As we continue to explore the possibilities of UAV technology, Flying MANETs pave the way for a new era of autonomous and interconnected aerial operations, ensuring that our armed forces are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in the complex and rapidly evolving modern battlefield.

About Rajesh Uppal

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