Design and practical deployment of a network-centric remotely piloted aircraft system
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Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPASs) are gaining more are more relevance during the last decade since more applications are being enabled by lighter planes with increasing autonomy, higher ceilings, and more powerful transmission technologies. The integration of the RPAS as part of network-centric warfare would be a very important milestone to achieve because of the huge amount of information and capabilities that all these aircrafts can incorporate into the global scheme. This integration is easier for handheld (short-range) RPASs since their communications are typically based on digital transmission like WiFi or WiMAX, but it may not be as obvious for bigger RPASs (long-range, e.g., tactical or medium/high altitude systems) because their line of sight communications are frequently based on analog transmissions. This implies indirect integration into network-centric warfare by means of the ground control station (satellite communications, when available, may suffer notorious delay for certain applications). This article presents a recent practical experience, including flight test campaigns, deploying an all- IP communication architecture into one of the most relevant Spanish tactical RPASs, the SIVA, used by both the Spanish Army and the Spanish Air Force for the last 10 years. This deployment enables cost-effective integration of this RPAS (and its natural successor, the MILANO, a medium- altitude RPAS) into the network-centric warfare by means of direct TCP/IP transmissions over a long-range digital line of sight channel combined with satellite communications for beyond line of sight operations. The proposed design includes network-level security over the radio interfaces, automatic data link selection, support of remote video terminals, and access connectivity toward external IPv6 networks.