Phased-array networking, navigation, and RF-systems developer First RF Corp. got the $4 million contract to build millimeter-wave wireless into RQ-7 Shadow uUAVs.
An the RQ-7 Shadow drone that the US military is looking to turn into a WiFi hotspot for troops. (Source: USMC)
The RQ-7 Shadow, which was used by both the Marines and Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, is small enough to be packed into two trucks along with the catapult troops in the field use to launch it.
It uses a rotary engine and two-bladed propeller, carries fire- and explosion-resistant fuel cells on its wings to power its electronic equipment, and can fly at speeds between 60 and 135 knots.
DARPA removed most of the surveillance equipment for the wireless AP versions of the drone, replacing them with a 20-pound pod just eight inches wide that was designed to be small and light to extend the drone's air time to as long as nine hours.
First RF got the contract to do the integration and testing work to produce at least four working pods and drones, two ground vehicles, and a control station and conduct field tests, though when those will be is still a little up on the air.
"We’re pleased with the technical achievements we’ve seen so far in steerable millimeter-wave antennas and millimeter-wave amplifier technology," according to a statement from Dick Ridgway, a DARPA project manager. “These successes -- and the novel networking approaches needed to maintain these high-capacity links -- are key to providing forward deployed units with the same high-capacity connectivity we all enjoy over our 4G cell-phone networks."