CNS, Connectivity

Smartcopter: A New Era for Helo ISR

By S.L. Fuller | March 9, 2017

SmartCopter

JAGID is displaying SmartCopter with partner Astronautics Corp of America at booth

Astronautics Corp of America and JAGID (Jake’s Aerospace Government International Defense) Management are teaming up on a new roll-on/roll-off communication suite, Astronautics says. Called SmartCopter, the solution is a portable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) cockpit situational awareness and communications system that expands ground-based operations for law enforcement and military operators.

“The idea is that we’re bringing enhanced capability to helicopters where integrated mission systems are already available, but they’re very expensive. Operators know they want these capabilities, but they just don’t have the budget to be able to implement them in an integrated fashion on every single aircraft,” Brian Keery, Astronautics product strategy manager, says. “SmartCopter [allows you] to have it integrated on every single helicopter, you can switch out rolls just by taking the system off of one and putting it onto another.”

The suite — which can fit inside a cargo compartment — features the Astronautics NEXIS server and an optional NEXIS display unit in the cockpit, as well as an Astronautics electronic flight bag (EFB) interface. The system also contains inputs/outputs for video, audio and data feeds and Wi-Fi capability. There are also communication options like air-to-ground long-term evolution (LTE) or Harris airborne military encrypted radio. With a data-sharing capability comes the need for security. Users want to be sure their information is not being consumed by an unwanted entity.

But JAGID’s CEO, Jake Williams, knows that Astronautics is experienced with cybersecurity, and SmartCopter provides security from three facets. Regarding regular frequency, Williams says, Astronautics has incorporated full military specifications security measures, be it U.S. or international military embedded cryptographic chips.

Regarding LTE and network management, Williams says they can monitor who is on the network at any given time, and kick people off if need be. Then SmartCopter also uses cryptographic software, or “soft crypto,” which can come in application form for mobile devices. So not only does Astronautics provide security, but the user can implement some measures themselves.

“We’re literally becoming just the commercial datalink in that respect. If the customer is already using their phone, and they have a service provider, our LTE can actually be accepted into that service provider’s network. It is then able to utilize smartphones that people are already using in the network for day-to-day calls and things like that,” Williams says. “The remote LTE tower — or flying LTE tower in this case — can provide the datalink to the officer or military personnel that are on the ground.”

SmartCopter customers would also have the option for maintenance tech log capabilities, video recording and the ability to send aircraft location data to the ground. The solution would also be able to host third-party applications that can display on EFB tablets.

“What SmartCopter’s concept is, is that it’s a flying [command, control, communications, computers ISR] system. It’s also just bringing what we have in our day-to-day lives to aerospace, defense and police,” Keery said. “So the ability to send video from the helicopter directly to the squad car in a high-speed chase … they can’t do that today without a massive investment. We’re talking about integrating smartphones and smart technology that everyone already has on them and the network.”

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