Manned-Unmanned Directional Mesh Enhanced Tactical Airborne Networks
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-070
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Manned-Unmanned Directional Mesh Enhanced Tactical Airborne Networks


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Electronics, Information Systems


ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMA263 Navy and Marine Corp Small Tactical Unmanned Air Systems


OBJECTIVE: Develop interoperable manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) networking technologies to support exchanging full-motion video, metadata and voice for situational awareness and control unmanned air vehicle (UAV) payloads and UAV navigation while maintaining backward compatibility with data links currently used by Navy/Marine Corps UAVs and fixed/rotary wing aircraft.


DESCRIPTION: A technology is needed to provide long range, survivable, digital interoperability network bridge and communications relay/router and data management capabilities to connect MUM-T communication and data networks for communications, detection, cueing, tracking, and engagement as well as relay Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) products to ashore and afloat command and control (C2) nodes. This requires that serial layer networks have the attributes of scalability, flexibility, robustness, and responsiveness to facilitate the transport of full motion video, metadata and voice across the battle space, enabling network connectivity among weapon systems, sensors, warfighters, decision makers, manned and unmanned platforms and command centers at all echelons of C2. This capability would support missions such as battlespace awareness, target development, intelligence preparation of battlefield, assault support approach and retirement lanes, landing zone evaluation, flank and rear area security, and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP).


Current Air-to-Air-to-Ground (AAG) line-of-sight data links, such as the Common Data Link (CDL) and Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), can only form a linear network topology (i.e., a daisy chain) and provide limited airborne interoperable networking capability. This linear topology is well suited for a network with a small number of nodes; but as network sizes increase, this topology becomes undesirable due to the excessive increase in latency as well as the amount of bandwidth consumed by relaying traffic over multiple hops of the daisy chain. Moreover, a disruption or breakdown of any link in the delay chain will directly lead to disrupted communication and network partition. Such linear networks are especially vulnerable and fragile in an Anti- Access/Area Denial (A2AD) environment and can pose severe network reliability issues. Current data links (such as CDL and MADL) cannot perform network self-configuring, self-healing (i.e., self-repairing, routing structures, and load balancing), self-optimizing, self-protecting, self-scaling, and self-stabilization. These inadequacies are detrimental for manned-unmanned interoperations in a highly contested area that requires autonomous deployment of a flying Wireless Mesh Network using UAVs networked with manned aircraft.

An innovative directional mesh networking technology is sought that has necessary provable capabilities to address current and future MUM-T interoperable ad-hoc mesh network inadequacies. Example capabilities include (but are not limited to) directional routing, Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), joint power-data adaptation, topology management, and low probability of intercept/low probability of detection (LPI/LPD) connectivity to improve MUM-T interoperable network communications and effectiveness facing A2AD dynamics. The proposed technology needs to be compatible with legacy capabilities (such as the ability to form a daisy-chain topology), as well as to offer Partial Mesh (PM) capability, which enables manned-unmanned platforms to alter their network formations in response to adversarial transient failures and/or temporarily out of correct network state. A solution is sought that does not change the communication hardware of the targeted MUM-T data links (e.g., CDL, MADL). It is anticipated that tactical data link physical layer default settings, such as the allowable range of frequency band, power, apertures, etc. will not be changed to maintain backward compatibility. Mature prototype with relatively higher technology readiness level (TRL) is expected for potential technology insertion and program integration is desired.


PHASE I: Develop conceptual approaches to MUM-T directional mesh networking that address the inadequacies and capabilities identified in the Description. Identify and define the preferred approach through modeling, simulation and analysis. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate and validate protocols, algorithms, and simulation software to implement the selected Phase I approach in a laboratory environment. Implement the technology into a software prototype without changing the hardware of the MUM-T CDL and MADL data links. Demonstrate and validate the prototype system with radio elements in an emulated and operationally MUM-T relevant environment. (Note: Technical data will be provided to the offeror if needed for successful completion.)


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Demonstrate a field-ready MUM-T system with CDL and MADL links in an operational environment. Perform CDL and MADL technology-refresh, technology insertion and program integration.


Results from this work have applicability to cellular telephone and data networks, to vehicular networks, and to WiFi networking technologies.



1.   Li, Pan, Zheng, Chi, and Fang, Yuguang. "The Capacity of Wireless Ad Hoc Networks Using Directional Antennas." IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, Volume 10, Issue 10, October 2011.


2.   Schug, T., Dee, C., Harshman, N., and Merrell, R. "Air Force aerial Layer Networking transformation initiatives." IEEE Military Communications Conference, Nov. 2011.


3.   Govil, Jivesh and Govil, Jivika. "Chapter 8 - Fourth Generation Networks—Adoption and Dangers". Fourth- Generation Wireless Networks: Applications and Innovations, IGI Global, 2010. https://www.igi-


4.   “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap 2005 - 2030.” Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense.


5.   Zhang, B. Hao, J. and Mouftah, H. “Bidirectional Multi-Constrained Routing Algorithms.” IEEE Transactions on Computers, in press.


6.   O’Brien, B.J., Baran, D.G., and Luu, B.B. “Ad hoc networking for unmanned ground vehicles: design and evaluation at command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on-the- move.” Army Research Laboratory, Technical Report, ARL-TR-3991, November 2006.


7.   Morris, S. and Frew, E.W. “Cooperative tracking of moving targets by teams of autonomous unmanned air vehicles.” Technical Report, FA9550-04-C-0107, July 2005.


KEYWORDS: Tactical Airborne Networks; Mesh Networks; Directional datalink; Backward Compatibility; Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA); Experimentation



Richard LaMarca





Dave Allocca





NOTICE: The data above is for casual reference only. The official DoD/Navy topic description and BAA information is available on FedBizOpps at

These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2019.2 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2019.2 BAA SBIR pre-release on May 2, 2019, which opens to receive proposals on May 31, 2019, and closes July 1, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET.

Between May 2, 2019 and May 30, 2019 you may communicate directly with the Topic Authors (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the topics. During these dates, their contact information is listed above. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is not allowed starting May 31, 2019
when DoD begins accepting proposals for this BAA.

Help: If you have general questions about DoD SBIR program, please contact the DoD SBIR Help Desk at 800-348-0787 or via email at