The Hughes Defense Systems division in Germantown, Md., is providing the HM-200 SATCOM model for manned fixed-wing aircraft, as well as unmanned fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
"Kontron brings to the table a really good understanding of military aircraft applications, and factors like ruggedization and lightning protection," says Rick Loper, vice president and general manager of the Hughes Defense Systems division.
"We don't have to re-invent the wheel working with Kontron," Loper continues. "They will take the modem board form us, do the installation and qualification in their facility, and we do the final testing."
Kontron is providing Hughes with embedded computing technology based on the Kontron COBALT 901 rugged small-form-factor embedded computer, explains R.J. McLaren, systems program manager at Kontron. The COBALT 901 has standardized I/O, is ruggedized to mil-standards for shock, vibration, and electromagnetic interference, and is a sealed conduction-cooled system that resists water immersion and other contaminants.
"we have standard I/O like Ethernet, USB 3.0, GPIO, RS232, RS422, and HDMI," McLaren says. "This platform enables us to do project-based modifications so we can work with customers like Hughes. we slightly modify our bottom plate to support the modem, and internally we have some pre-existing connections that allow us to interface with and support the modem.
Pre-designed building blocks in the COBALT 901 help Kontron designers make as few modifications as possible to the core system to create a custom design based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology.
"We didn't have to do any major design changes, and that is the intent of the platform -- to quickly get these solutions to the market, rather than COM Express up with a bottom-up design," McLaren says. "It is specially made and tailored for this program, but a lot of the core features are a COTS-type approach."
In addition to the HM-200, Hughes also is working with Kontron on the HM-400 SATCOM modem for the General Atomic Predator B combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which the U.S. military calls the MQ-9 Reaper UAV, Loper says.
One of the most promising applications of the Hughes HM-200 airborne modem is manned and unmanned helicopters, which represent a severe shock-and-vibration environment, Loper says.
"It provides beyond-line-of-sight communications for these products," Loper says. "Hughes specializes in communications wave forms that operate through helicopter blades, instead of mounting on the hub of the helicopter. Even though those blades are blocking the signals hundreds of times per second, we can still get that signal through."
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