Can soldier hand-held ruggedized drones be stealthy?
- By Katherine Owens
Lockheed is engineering a new, stealthy low-frequency radar drone designed to conduct ISR missions without being detected, developers said.
The Indago 3 transmits data securely over a multi-nodal network.
In addition to its quiet propulsion technology and gray color, the key to Indago 3’s stealth, is its low radio frequency, enabled by the TW-600 Ocelot ™signal connector module. The Ocelot operates in a frequency range of 1775-1815 MHz, with a bandwidth of between 4 and 20 MHz, which is relatively narrow to allow for the 12 channels the Indago 3 supports, according to TrellisWare Technologies.
The low-frequency emission software uses longer wavelengths that are not ideal for radar identification, but allow for longer range radio connections and are safer from data transmission interference said Lockheed official. The new software gives the Indago 3 a secure data link, the company said.
The Ocelot module, equipped with TrellisWare’s networking technology, is built specifically for integration into UAS, said Matt Fallows, Director of Applications and Systems at TrellisWare. It helps enhance Indago 3’s airborne networking in challenging environments.
The data link enabled by the Ocelot module requires a network, which is provided by Mobile Ad-hoc Network (MANET) software. The MANET software creates a high-speed wireless network that is self-forming and self-healing, according to TrellisWare.
This self-healing capability means that the MANET can adapt to almost any scale and requires less human IT monitoring. The more than 200 network nodes enable secure and rapid transmission of video streams, as well as voice communication, and position location information, reports TrellisWare.
The Indago 3 is operated by virtual cockpit software loaded on a laptop, or a handheld GCS touchscreen controller, which uses surface capacitive technology, or electrical sensors that detect and respond to the electrical currents in the human finger, according to industry developers.
The drone itself is a quadrotor, a type of rotorcraft that has four vertically-oriented propellers, branching out from the central motor at 90-degree angles. The front and back propellers typically spin clockwise, while the ones on either side spin counterclockwise, and each of the four propeller motors can operate independently, controlled by algorithms that change the accelerations of each motor to change direction or balance the aircraft.
Indago 3 weighs less than five pounds and can be folded and carried by a single soldier. When needed, it can be set up and airborne within three minutes, according to a Lockheed press release. Once airborne, it can fly for up to 50 minutes and Lockheed reports that the drone meets military rugged condition endurance standards.