Growing UAV Market for Commercial Bandwidth

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sales have increased exponentially and opportunities for commercial bandwidth providers will only grow as the U.S. military undertakes new missions abroad, according to a recent article in Defense News.

However, one of the barriers to further growth is the advent of HD-quality video, which is increasing bandwidth limitation issues for UAVs.  According to the Defense News article, as much as 90 percent of UAV bandwidth used by the Department of Defense during the campaigns in in Iraq and Afghanistan came from commercial providers.

In addition, bandwidth demand is increasing in regions like Africa and Southeast Asia to combat the rising influence of Al-Qaeda.  The U.S. is already focusing UAV operations on Asia, which will require faster growth rates in the use of bandwidth, as opposed to spikes in demand based on emerging needs in Africa.

With the Iraq campaign completed and Afghanistan military engagements winding down, there has been a decrease in bandwidth demand, which has caused prices to decrease.  With new efforts in Asia and Africa however, demand and prices are expected to increase in the next two years. 

The military is adjusting to this by building in the ability to access multiple bands that extend beyond the commercial KU band.  In newer unmanned systems, KA, C and X band are becoming more common, according to the article. 

One issue that will arise in Asia is North Korea and China could attempt cyber attacks against the commercial satellites that provide the bandwidth.

“The capabilities are out there to do it; we know it,” said Mark Daniels, vice president at Intelsat General, who was quoted in the Defense News article. “So we’re working on the capability to protect against that.”

Daniels is referring to Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) threats, which can be countered by emerging innovations in anti-jamming capabilities for the U.S. military.  In addition, as the article highlights, Intelsat General has addressed these challenges by boosting security — both at the information assurance level and at the physical terminals where the systems are operated.  The company is also working with the Pentagon to create backup plans if worst-case scenarios should occur.

UAVs will continue to play a major role in our military engagements aboard. As bandwidth demand increases in the next few years, we will see more commercial providers offering the right solutions to help the U.S. military support missions that mitigate new and emerging threats to our nation.

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