The Name of the Game: Critical Communications on the Move
by Yoel Tzafrir, The Marker Commercial Dept. – Marketing Content | UAVs | Nov 2019
The Israeli company Orbit has recently been selected by IAI and Rafael to supply satellite communications, ground LOS (line-of-sight) tracking and airborne audio management systems for the Heron-TP UAV, which has been leased to a European country.
The company feels that this demonstrates trust in its ability to provide continuous communications, precision tracking and high-quality audio built to withstand harsh environmental and electromagnetic conditions – allowing for the transfer of large volumes of data in real time, a critical capability in modern warfare.
The past year has been a successful one for Orbit, a leading supplier of communications solutions for land, sea, airborne and space systems. Not only has its financial stability resulted in sustained growth, but the company has implemented a business strategy focused on high-quality projects culminating in long-term agreements with some of the world’s top-tier players.
A prime example of the success of this strategy is Obit’s role in an agreement between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael and Airbus to lease the Heron-TP UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to a Western European country. The Heron-TP is a long-range, long-endurance MALE aircraft and one of the flagship offerings of IAI. As a highly strategic, multi-mission and multi-payload vehicle that brings together some of country’s most advanced technologies, it has been in service in the Israel Air Force since 2010, where it is known as the “Eitan” (or “Steadfast”) system. Orbit’s part in this platform concerns the management of three interrelated communications systems – satellite, line-of-sight and audio – between the ground station and the exceptionally large aircraft, with a 26-meter wingspan and a 5.5-ton takeoff weight.
Advanced communications systems constitute a vital component in both manned and unmanned vehicles in the air, at sea and on land. For users on the ground, it is a critical need for all aspects of mission management and intelligence gathering.
“In the Heron project, we bring together the key capabilities developed at Orbit, a leading provider of innovative, mission-critical communications systems,” states Lavi Maman, a Senior Sales Manager at the company’s Israeli headquarters. “We deliver continuous broadband communications capable of withstanding the harshest environmental and electromagnetic compatibility conditions as well as cyber-attacks, allowing for the transfer of large volumes of data in real time.”
“It is worth remembering that in a project of this scope, strict regulatory requirements must be met because UAVs also operate in civilian airspace,” adds Maman. “Another complex challenge is the need to offer high-level performance at minimum weight and power consumption. The choice of Orbit as communications solution provider is indicative of a high level of trust in its innovative technology and development capabilities.”
Strong technological foundations
Founded in 1950, Orbit (TASE: ORBI) is headquartered in Netanya, with a US subsidiary in Florida and sales and support presence around the world. Targeting both defense/government and commercial markets, the company’s customers include leading air forces, navies (more than 20 worldwide) and armies, alongside communications service providers and space agencies. “We have a wide range of products,” states Maman, “including airborne and maritime communications, ground stations for remote sensing and telemetry systems – operating across stationary and mobile platforms, satellites, aircraft, UAVs and missile testing systems.”
“All of our product lines are based on strong technological foundations and the extensive know-how accumulated over decades of activity,” he adds. “Most of our projects are very complex and we invest heavily in R&D to keep Orbit at the forefront of technology.”
Orbit customers include end users as well as major aircraft manufacturers and integrators, such as Airbus, Boeing, Elbit Systems, IAI, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Rafael, Rockwell Collins and more. It also maintains full manufacturing capabilities via its Florida facility, enabling relevant customers to take advantage of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) agreement between Israel and the US.
Most of the company’s products are modular, allowing for agility (e.g., quick changes on the fly) and high quality, thanks to a culture of multidisciplinary teams and processes. “We know how to provide each branch of the armed forces – Army, Navy and Air Force – with field-proven solutions that can be customized according to its particular demands,” comments Maman.
Emphasis on R&D and innovation
Maman points out that Orbit has patented technologies capable of maintaining critical communications across multiple frequency ranges (such as Ku/Ka or X/Ka). It provides a complete end-to-end solution, complying with international regulations and delivering a high-quality product with long life expectancy.
“Orbit is a veteran communications solution provider to defense markets in Israel and abroad with long-term customers and an excellent track record,” concludes Lavi Maman. “We especially value repeat customers requesting new platforms or upgrades to existing ones. For example, Orbit was recently chosen to provide a marine LOS solution for a platform designed to protect strategic sites. Such deals validate our strength in the market and the trust our customers have in us. We also continue to invest in R&D and innovation, as part of our strategy to maintain our leadership position and expand our market share.”
In the realm of airborne audio systems, Orbit offers unique 3D Audio capabilities primarily for the defense market. 3D Audio spatially separates audio sources enabling pilots to better focus on, and prioritize, different voices and signals during simultaneous transmissions.
Another feature of 3D Audio is its ability to provide audio directional indications. For example, when commanding a formation of jets, the lead pilot can quickly discern the position of an aircraft within the group, based on the location of the source making contact. The same directional indication applies to threats, such as incoming missiles. The audio warning, which is in initially “heard” from the direction of the launch, dynamically changes as the trajectory of the missile and the aircraft change. By providing real-time information on the direction of the threat, survivability is increased.
3D Audio can also be applied to command vehicles on the ground, where multiple audio sources can also be spatially separated to achieve more effective attention. This capability is of paramount importance in the real-time communications systems of the modern battlefield.