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Laser-Based Communications Passes Military Tests

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A monthlong evaluation of a high-speed, laser-based communications system funded by the Office of Naval Research was successfully tested by Exelis and its partner, the company said this week.

Aerospace and defense communications and information systems provider Exelis said the testing, done with its partner, Innovative Technology Solutions Inc. (dba NovaSol), evaluated the Tactical Line-of-Sight Optical Network (TALON) free-space optical communications system. Exelis, NovaSol and other partners are working to transition TALON from research and development into a field-ready product.

Conducted in collaboration with the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the exercises demonstrated the ruggedized system’s capability to wirelessly transmit 100 Mb/s of high-resolution images and video over a distance of more than 50 km (31 miles), Exelis said. The system also acquired and maintained a data link between two US Marine Corps Tactical Elevated Antenna Mast Systems.

The TALON free-space optical communication system uses lasers to transmit large volumes of images and video between points more than 30 miles apart.

“Free-space optical communications systems provide fighting forces with a high-capacity data link that is not reliant on hard-line connections, such as fiber cables,” said Joe Rambala, vice president and general manager of the Exelis integrated electronic warfare systems business. “As the battlefield becomes more data-driven, ensuring warfighters are equipped with the information they need, whenever and wherever they need it, is critical to mission success.”

Free-space optical communications systems use lasers to transmit narrow beams of energy capable of carrying anywhere from 100 kb to tens of gigabits of data per second. Along with operating approximately 1000 times faster than conventional radio frequency (RF) communications systems, the narrow laser beams are invisible and provide an extremely low probability of interception. Also, by using laser energy to carry data, the system avoids congested RF bands, instead using higher-frequency wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The three-phase evaluation was conducted at NRL’s Chesapeake Bay Detachment in Maryland, Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, Calif., and Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton, Calif. The system demonstrated its broadband capability to transmit and receive streaming audio and video simultaneously from stationary and mobile positions in high-wind environments.

The TALON system was developed under a Future Naval Capability program funded by the Office of Naval Research.

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Photonics Spectra
Feb 2014
AmericasBusinessCaliforniaCommunicationsdefenseElectronics & Signal AnalysisExelisfree-space communicationslaser-based communicationslight speedMarylandNaval Air WeaponsNew JerseyNovaSolNRLOffice of Naval ResearchopticsRFTactical Line-of-Sight Optical NetworkTALONlasers

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