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HeloSat White Paper: Beyond Line of Sight SATCOM for Rotary Wing Aircraft

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Due to their size and maneuverability, helicopters and other rotary wing aircraft are ideal for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). Yet their fast-moving rotor blades – the very feature that makes them so nimble – makes satellite communications (SATCOM) difficult, thereby limiting their use for long distance ISR missions.

Until now, rotary wing aircraft could only provide live video and data by way of Line of Sight (LoS) microwave technologies where the aircraft would link to a receiver mounted on a tower. For rotary aircraft to gather HD video intelligence Beyond Line of Sight (BLoS), or operate in environments that don’t have the necessary infrastructure, would entail flying to the destination, collecting the data and then returning for analysis. As a result, helicopters have remained largely underutilized for long distance ISR missions that require bandwidth intensive real-time video and data.

This paper describes a BLoS Wideband (WB) satellite communications system from Hughes which eliminates this obstacle by enabling communications signals to pass reliably through rotor blades. Hughes system engineering experts developed patented waveform enhancements using specialized algorithms embedded within software definable modem technology to create the Hughes HeloSat™ System. Designed as an open architecture solution for BLoS SATCOM in which the technical capabilities are independent of helicopter type, HeloSat operates in the X-, Ku-, and Ka-bands, employing resilient waveform technology optimized for rotary platforms and  based on commercially proven systems. With this integrated BLoS connectivity, rotary aircraft can now be deployed to perform long-distance ISR missions delivering real-time video and data for analysis.

With deep commercial aeronautical satellite communications expertise, Hughes has the experience as a SATCOM systems integrator and a long-standing legacy with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) in the development of advanced technology solutions such as the HeloSat system.

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