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A Cobham Focus: Enhanced SATCOM Connectivity
By Andrew Legg, Sales + Business Development, Cobham SATCOM


The launch of the new AVIATOR UAV 200 by Cobham SATCOM has redefined UAV SATCOM connectivity and has also created future possibilities for further improving and enhancing the capabilities of tactical UAVs.

As the world’s smallest, lightest Inmarsat UAV SATCOM solution, the Cobham system offers Inmarsat SwiftBroadband SATCOM connectivity in a compact 1.45 kg one-box package that measures just 24 x 16 x 6 cm.

Providing a significant 75 percent mass reduction over comparable systems available on the market today, the system’s size, weight and power savings have significant implications and benefits for tactical UAVs, including enhanced performance, range and payload capability, which enable operators to take full advantage of the capabilities of their airframes. The AVIATOR UAV 200 can deliver greater operational flexibility for TUAVs in a number of applications, including military, border security enforcement, public safety, commercial use and scientific research.

As SwiftBroadband is currently in use for safety-critical ATC communications, the AVIATOR UAV 200 system could pave the way for possible future integration into controlled airspace for beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) UAV operations. The system provides up to 200 kbps background data, or about 120 to 140 kbps streaming which, along with some innovative video processing solutions available, allows narrow bandwidth BLOS video greatly extending the useful range of these small UAVs.

Eye in the sky applications are about sending visual information, and while users may all default to HD video on their wish list, there’s a solid argument to be made that live situational awareness achieved through low bandwidth video can have massive strategic value. The ability to react to situational data real time and retask an air vehicle instead of waiting eight to 12 hours to gain this awareness, can not only give the upper hand, but more importantly, save lives.

The new Cobham SATCOM AVIATOR UAV 200.

The AVIATOR UAV 200 features a phased array antenna that allows use within the full SwiftBroadband coverage footprint as the beam steers down to 5 degrees elevation, enabling high and low-latitude operations. Normally phased array antennas need contact with a substantial ground plane around the transmitting structure, to pull the beam down that far.

However, Cobham’s little phased array is completely independent of the ground plane. This means the phased array can fit in the confined spaces within the narrow fuselages of tactical UAVs of the size of Insitu’s Integrator or the smaller airframes from Textron or Elbit Systems, for example.

With improved SATCOM technology, UAV operators can benefit from improved aircraft control and situational awareness, with the ability to make real-time route adjustments while simultaneously tracking the airframe. Operators also have a constant overview of on-board systems and structural integrity with real-time health monitoring. Reliable connectivity reduces risk and is an asset in the flight planning process.

The Cobham system is also significant for safety and security as it enables tactical UAVs to play an even more pivotal role in enforcing border security and ensuring public safety in areas including search and rescue, real-time scene surveillance and disaster management. Cobham has just been awarded approval to go on air with Inmarsat and will offer the AVIATOR UAV 200 to the market in November or December of this year.

Kim Gram, Vice President of Cobham SATCOM’s aeronautical business unit, said, “Until now, the size, weight and power requirements of Inmarsat SATCOM hardware were too restrictive for smaller UAVs, which depend upon lightweight components to maximize range, endurance and operational use. AVIATOR UAV 200 matches the connectivity and performance of larger, class-leading SATCOM systems, but in a far smaller, lighter and less power-demanding package.”

Andy Start, President, Inmarsat Global Government, added, “This product allows beyond line of sight flight and payload control for a wide range of small UAV platforms where previously this has simply not been possible. Adding the ability to extend their operational range significantly and provide access to real time situational data and video, it is a truly compelling package.” 


The AVIATOR UAV 200 is a single box SWAP optimized Inmarsat SwiftBroadband solution with the following technical specifications:

• Mounted within the airframe 
• Coverage within the full Inmarsat footprint
• Contended background data up to 200 kbps
• Streaming class data up to 120/140 kbps
• Multiple user-configurable data contexts
• Aircraft interfaces 

• DC power
• 2 x Ethernet
• 2 x RS-232
• Navigation/attitude data in via Ethernet or serial ports

• Physical characteristics

• Weight: 1.45 kg
• Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 6 cm
• Power: 28 Watts at 14/28 VDC nominal
• Mid-flange for ground plane and heat management
• Micro-D connector interface • No ground-plane requirement