The Incredible Shrinking Ethernet Switch Every UAV Needs

Techaya Military Ethernet Topology

Both fixed- and rotary-wing UAVs are used extensively in the military for reconnaissance and assault and for a wide variety of commercial applications. These UAVs carry an enormous amount of electronic equipment. To support their mission profiles, UAVs require the use of multiple sensors – visual, infrared, near-infrared, radiation, biological, and chemical. Multiple visual cameras are used to provide 180 degree forward and downward views for remote pilots. Additionally, UAVs use short range radios, satellite, radar and other tactical communications devices to reach back to centralized command. An increasing number of these components are being replaced with modular elements connected via Ethernet.

Ethernet is the well-established standard in government, enterprise, and home applications. It is rapidly becoming the standard for military and other rugged applications due to proven interoperability, reliability, and speed. Historically, dedicated bus architectures have been used in military applications, resulting in heavy and somewhat inflexible systems. Ethernet has been shown as a viable alternative for a number of reasons:

  • Ethernet and IP technologies are ubiquitous
  • Ethernet devices are inherently interoperable, encouraging modularity
  • Rugged commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components are readily available
  • Ethernet continues to receive large technology investments
  • Ethernet operates over world-spanning distances using established infrastructures

The next generation Global Hawk UAV, for example, will use an all modular set of elements connected through fiber optics and using IPv6. IPv6 will allow data to be directly forwarded to its destination without reformatting. A number of advanced UAV platforms are under development and will see service in the next several years. The Lockheed Martin Sea Ghost will be so sophisticated that several of them will be controlled by a single operator. The rumored, unmanned, Boeing Long Range Strike-B Heavy Bomber is said to be designed to replace current conventional piloted stealth bombers.

UAVs can also stay on duty for extended periods of time since remote pilots can be rotated to eliminate fatigue normally associated with long-haul flight assignments. Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory recently flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for over 48 hours using liquid hydrogen fuel. Every ounce of decreased weight means more flight time for UAVs, so every ounce of component weight must be scrutinized while maintaining and maximizing system performance.

Where every square inch of space, every ounce of weight, and every watt of power is critical, what’s needed is a rugged, small, light, power-efficient switch that supports sophisticated switching applications on UAVs. Techaya is a prime developer, innovator and manufacturer of military rugged and tailor-made IP-based communications solutions. Techaya designs and manufacturers Ethernet networking equipment including military-grade Ethernet switches purpose built for military applications. Techaya offers a series of Ethernet and other switches that are roughly the size of a credit card, specifically for UAV, soldier-carry and other mobile applications where SWaP requirements are key.  They include:

  • MILTECH 918 – 8-port managed Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) switch
  • MILTECH 308 – 8-port unmanaged Fast Ethernet (10/100Mbps) switch
  • MILTECH 306 – 7+1-port USB hub
  • MILTECH 406 -communications grid solution with Ethernet, USB, serial and SMBus communications

In June of 2013, Techaya appointed WLANmall as the exclusive distributor of its products throughout the United States. Visit www.militaryethernet.com for more information on the Techaya products. Visit Techaya and WLANmall at AUVSI in Washington DC, Aug 14-16 at booth #2553.