DARPA has finished Phase 1 of it Mobile Hotspots program to develop a reliable, on-demand system for long-range, high-capacity reachback for its tactical units. The program is currently building and demonstrating small unmanned vehicles that will carry a scalable, mobile millimeter-wave communications backhaul network. The network can reportedly deliver up to a 1 Gb/s capacity. Participating companies in Phase 1 developed and tested certain technologies that will be integrated into a complete system and will be subsequently flight tested. Thus far, the companies have developed smaller, steerable millimeter-wave antennas, low noise amplifiers, and more efficient and capable power amplifiers. They also created new methods of robust airborne networking, and produced a small, light weight, power SWAP pod design to hold the system.
Dick Ridgway, DARPA program manager, said, “These successes—and the novel networking approaches needed to maintain these high-capacity links—are key to providing forward deployed units with the same high-capacity connectivity we all enjoy over our 4G cell-phone networks.”
Phase 2 began March 2014. L-3 Communications and FIRST RF, were chosen to lead teams of several Phase 1 companies. Phase 2 goals include the integration of certain Phase 1 technologies into Shadow-compatible aerial pods and ground vehicles. A ground demonstration of a fixed ground node, at least four Shadow-compatible pods, and two ground vehicles will conclude Phase 2. A planned phase 3 will include Mobile Hotspot system field testing on networks of mobile ground vehicles and multiple SRQ-7 Shadow UAVs.