Free-space optical communication has the potential to meet the future growing demand of very high data-rates in aeronautical communication. Application scenarios are data links between aircraft, aircraft to satellites and aircraft to ground. The last one is the main focus of the DODfast (Demonstration of an Optical Data link fast) project. The goal of the project is to demonstrate a high data-rate optical downlink from a fast flying platform. Whereas this technology has already been successfully demonstrated using DLR’s turboprop aircraft Do228, the new innovation lies now in bringing the technology in a state to perform with a jetfighter as flight platform and DLR’s Transportable Optical Ground Station (TOGS) as the receiver on the ground. The biggest challenges in this demonstration compared to earlier scenarios are the higher speed and vibration of the aircraft body.
Based on DLR technology, the MLT (Micro Laser Terminal) is developed by ViaLight Communications and installed in the Avionic-Demonstrator-Tornado-Pod (ADT-Pod) which is attached at the center line of the aircraft. The ADT-Pod also hosts the data source: the surveillance camera and a special media converter, developed by the project principal Cassidian. The TOGS is equipped with an optical free-space receiver for the 1 GBit/s downlink and the necessary beacon laser for the optical tracking system. For the remote control of the MLT and GPS telemetry for the TOGS, a TM/TC system is also installed by Cassidian. This comprises one RF uplink (telecommand) and two downlinks (telemetry).
Name of project: DODfast (Demonstration of an Optical Data link fast)
Project partner: Cassidian, DLR, ViaLight Communications
Project time line: Nov 2011 – Feb 2014