The security of sensitive information exchange has become a major topic in recent years. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) provides a highly secure approach to share random encryption keys between two communication terminals. In contrast with traditional public cryptography methods, QKD security relies on the foundations of quantum mechanics and not on computational capabilities. This makes QKD unconditionally secure (if properly implemented) and it is envisaged as a main component in the next–generation cryptographic technology. QKD has already been successfully demonstrated in different contexts such as fibre-to- fibre, and free-space ground-toground as well as ground-to-air communications. However, Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) constraints have prevented previous implementations to be demonstrated on small form airborne platforms such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS). Project Q-DOS aims to deliver a QKD module using compact, cutting-edge photonic waveguide technology, which will allow low-SWaP aerospace requirements to be met. This module uses 1550 nm single photons to implement a BB84 protocol, and will enable the demonstration of a secure, high-speed optical communication data link (~0.5 Gbps) between a drone and a ground station. The targeted link range is 1 km. The airborne communications module, including the QKD terminal, tracking modules, traditional communications systems, optics and control electronics, must not exceed a mass of 5 kg and a power consumption of 20 W.
The satellite market is shifting towards smaller (micro and nanosatellites), lowered mass and increased performance platforms. Nanosatellites and picosatellites have been used for a number of new, innovative and unique payloads and missions. This trend requires new concepts for a reduced size, a better performance/weight ratio and a reduction of onboard power consumption. In this context, disruptive technologies, such as laser-optical communication systems, are opening new possibilities. This paper presents the C3PO<sup>1</sup> system, “advanced Concept for laser uplink/ downlink CommuniCation with sPace Objects”, and the first results of the development of its key technologies. This project targets the design of a communications system that uses a ground-based laser to illuminate a satellite, and a Modulating Retro-Reflector (MRR) to return a beam of light modulated by data to the ground. This enables a downlink, without a laser source on the satellite. This architecture suits well to small satellite applications so as high data rates are potentially provided with very low board mass. C3PO project aims to achieve data rates of 1Gbit/s between LEO satellites and Earth with a communication payload mass of less than 1kilogram. In this paper, results of the initial experiments and demonstration of the key technologies will be shown.
The new generation of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) require high speed data links to offload all its sensors data.
RFSO (Reflective Free Space Optics) has become an important alternative to RF systems because it is robust against
interception and jamming, enhancing data security. Moreover, the weight and power consumption of the RFSO coms
module is reduced, making it suitable for SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power) constrained applications.
In this paper, we present the design of a tracking module based on a non-mechanical holographic beam steering system.
A highly accurate position sensing unit is required to accomplish a good tracking process and therefore guarantee the
data link stability. Different localization methods such as centroid, centroid windowed or centroid squared are tested and
compared using real data captured in a turbulent scenario. Errors below 8cm are reported in a double pass 1km link.
The advent of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has generated the need for reduced size, weight and power (SWaP)
requirements for communications systems with a high data rate, enhanced security and quality of service. This paper
presents the current results of the DAZZLE project run by Airbus Group Innovations. The specifications, integration
steps and initial performance of a UAV to ground communication system using a laser and a modulated retro-reflector
are detailed. The laser operates at the wavelength of 1550nm and at power levels that keep it eye safe. It is directed using
a FLIR pan and tilt unit driven by an image processing-based system that tracks the UAV in flight at a range of a few
kilometers. The modulated retro-reflector is capable of a data rate of 20Mbps over short distances, using 200mW of
electrical power. The communication system was tested at the Pershore Laser Range in July 2014. Video data from a
flying Octocopter was successfully transmitted over 1200m. During the next phase of the DAZZLE project, the team
will attempt to produce a modulated retro-reflector capable of 1Gbps in partnership with the research institute Acreo1
based in Sweden. A high speed laser beam steering capability based on a Spatial Light Modulator will also be added to
the system to improve beam pointing accuracy.