Secure Communications Link Between Robotics and Autonomous Systems
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-075
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Secure Communications Link Between Robotics and Autonomous Systems


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Battlespace, Electronics ACQUISITION PROGRAM: JSF Joint Strike Fighter

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: The Navy is seeking high broadband secure communications in a denied environment between Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and manned platforms that are not susceptible to jamming, interception and detection to maintain multiple continuous connections to mobile platforms.


DESCRIPTION: Radio frequency (RF) communications are susceptible to detection, interception and jamming. New technologies able to maintain continuous secure communication links in contested RF environments including low probability of intercept/low probability of detection (LPI/LPD) are needed. FSO provides communications with no RF emissions. Acquiring, tracking, and maintaining a tight beam, broadband, secure communications link between multiple rapidly moving vehicles (manned and unmanned) require many technologies to work in harmony. There is a need for new technical approaches to enable emerging advancement in computing and data fusion to be effectively realized as applied to new RAS combat applications. Emerging RAS applications include cognitive operations with other autonomous systems for armed combat, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), casualty extraction and field communications. Each of these applications have different objectives but all require uninterrupted, high bandwidth, and secure communications. During all operations, the ability to transmit megabits of data per second is becoming a necessity. Instantaneous awareness of unfolding tactical situations is now expected by staff level leadership for even the most remote operation areas. Radio frequency congestion also limits the communication paths available so other modes of communication are necessary. Multiple, simultaneous, consistent, communication links within a broad field of regard that are difficult to detect, intercept and jam are needed to ensure continuous flow of required data.


Operational requirements include a continuous, secure, broadband point-to-point non-RF communications link in RF and GPS-denied environments that include variable atmospheric penetration, with low probability of detection and intercept, solid state coverage (no moving parts), 120 degree x 90 degree field of regard for a given component, acquisition within seconds and continuous tracking of paired units, and small space, weight and power (SWaP) consistent with a Group 2 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) (max 21-55 lbs.) as well as ranging and angular positional determination.


Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating

Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DSS and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.


PHASE I: Design and demonstrate, through analysis and simulation, a secure non-RF communications link that achieves sustainable one megabit per second or better data rates. Assess device performance parameters, including all the requirements listed above. Consider all aspects of device design, deployment, and operations; include a preliminary assessment operating parameters. Objectives/goals are: weight of less than 20 lbs, bandwidth greater than 100 megahertz, operating range of at least 1 nautical mile (NM), and automatic acquisition and tracking techniques. Justify the feasibility/practicality of the approach. Propose a specific device design for prototype fabrication in Phase II of the project based on this analysis.


PHASE II: Design, fabricate, and demonstrate a small lot of prototype communications modules that exercise the automatic tracking functions within a laboratory environment. Characterize SWaP and electrical/optical measurements including frequency response, link budget, acquisition time, bandwidth, ranging, and angular position detection. Estimate operating range. Study acquisition/ reacquisition under rotation and translation of the platform similar to those encountered in actual flight conditions to show consistent operation.


Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see Description for details.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize and incorporate prototype modules into UAS for testing to determine amount of coverage achievable while maneuvering. Work with unmanned and fixed wing platforms for suitability into larger airframes.


Autonomous swarming UAS require secure communications to coordinate actions in hazardous environments including search and rescue, hazardous construction, and law enforcement.



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2.   Kim, I., Hakakha, H., Adhikari, P. and Korevaar, E. ”Scintillation reduction using multiple transmitters." Free- Space Laser Communication Technologies IX, Proc. SPIE 2990, 1997, pp. 102-113. transmitters/10.1117/12.273685.short?SSO=1


3.   “Transmission.” Weather Edge, Inc., July 22, 1999. radiation/transmission.shtml


4.   Coutard, L., and Chaumette, F. “Visual detection and 3D model-based tracking for landing on aircraft carrier.” IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, ICRA’11, 2011, Shanghai, China, pp.1746-1751.


5.   Deng, Peng, Kavehrad, Mohsen, and Lou, Yan. "MEMS-based beam-steerable FSO communications for reconfigurable wireless data center." Proc. SPIE 10128, Broadband Access Communication Technologies XI, 1012805 (28 January 2017). doi: 10.1117/12.2253342


6.   Neo, Soo Sim Daniel. "Free Space Optics communications for mobile military platforms." Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, December 2003.


7.   Weise, Thibaut, Bastial, Liebe, and Van Gool, Luc. "Fast 3D scanning with automatic motion compensation." IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, 2007..


KEYWORDS: UAS; FSO; Optical Communications; RF-denied; Secure Communications Link; High Bandwidth; Secure Airborne Network



Marc Blaydoe





Michael Hackert






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