Telespazio’s “through-the-rotor” broadband solution on board the Leonardo SW-4 SOLO drone

20 September 2021

For the first time ever, a Leonardo rotary-wing aerial platform will be equipped with a satellite system built by Telespazio.

The remotely piloted helicopter SW-4 SOLO will have a broadband connection supplied by Telespazio thanks to an innovative through-the-rotor system, a project financed by national and international organizations.

In response to Leonardo’s connectivity requirements for its SW-4 SOLO helicopter, Telespazio has deployed a team of companies comprising Italiana Ponti Radio and Hughes Network Systems which, following a study of the aviation market for communications on rotary-wing aerial platforms, has developed a bespoke solution for helicopters and drones.

“Our approach was to solve all problems connected with satellite avionics solutions by providing teleport services, on-board satellite antennas, baseband technology and space capacity on the satellites most suited to the proposal. When we searched for a technology that could ensure connectivity under the rotor of a helicopter we asked our strategic partner Hughes for a proof of concept; together with them we designed a solution that is currently unique in the market. Our partnership with Italiana Ponti Radio, on the other hand, has enabled us to offer an outstanding Italian solution for small Ka band and Ku band satellite antennas that meet all integration requirements - of fundamental importance on aerial platforms”.

Alessandro Caranci, Head of Line of Business Satellite Communications at Telespazio.

In particular, Italiana Ponti Radio contributed a 31cm Ka band antenna to the project. This represents an important milestone for the company, which this year added to its certification for 37cm Ku band avionics antennas with the satellite operator Eutelsat.

“Italiana Ponti Radio has supplied Leonardo with communication technologies for many years, but the partnership proposed by Telespazio has enabled our company to come back to LHD with an integrated solution”

Antonio Salomone, President of IPR.

Hughes Network Systems is a historic partner of Telespazio, with a collaboration that has now lasted more than a decade. Just last year, the two companies jointly tested the capabilities of the “no packet loss” technology of Hughes Network Systems’ HeloSat solution through the blades of a Leonardo AW139 helicopter.

“This demonstration enabled Telespazio to offer Leonardo a turnkey solution based on an unmanned rotary wing platform. With its small dimensions, weight and power, HeloSat is the only reliable broadband Beyond-Line-of-Sight SATCOM capability, validated for helicopters to transmit streaming and full-motion video in real time.”

Rick Lober, vice president and general manager, Hughes Defense

Avionic satellite communications for manned and unmanned aerial platforms, both large and small, have greatly expanded in the past few years. Telespazio, with its 60 years’ experience in the satellite communications sector and cutting-edge infrastructures, offers the market a unique profile that covers the entire value chain of broadband and narrowband satellite communications for both institutional and commercial customers; it also provides bespoke services in every region of the world with a variety of technological solutions. Decades of collaboration with satellite operators have generated a wide range of unique solutions which, thanks to the company's own teleport network, can be provided in every part of the world.

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