Deployable fiber-optic spools for airborne drones

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Fiber-guided airborne drone

Deployable fiber-optic spools for airborne drones

Based on its experience in deploying optical fibers from land or underwater drones, SEDI-ATI develops* spools for airborne drones.

Optical fiber has already proved its suitability (robustness, harsh environments, compatible with rough terrain, etc.) when integrated into unmanned land1 and underwater2 guided vehicles, as well as UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles (e.g. MMP fiber-guided missiles).

The benefits of optical fibers are manifold

Huge bandwidths

More and more applications such as live broadcasting or detection based on facial recognition within a high concentration of individuals, require very high bandwidths (transport of Big Data for processing with Artificial Intelligence, 4K video and more).

Low weight / size

A low weight (250 gr @ Lg: 1000 m) and a small size (ø: 80 mm x h: 65 mm @ Lg: 1000 meters) are essential for an embedded drone link.

Deployment over long distances

Depending on the capacity of the drones, the spools allow deployments over long distances > 1000 m.

Natural immunity

The fiber has a natural immunity to electrical and electromagnetic phenomena: it can be used in very disturbed areas, where transmission and vehicle guidance therefore become possible (shielded enclosures, concrete walls, metal beams, basements, blockhouses, galleries, caves, etc.).

Technical features

Ground/air link

On an airborne drone, the fiber can be connected to a high definition / high speed camera and carried almost directly by a common drone. On the ground, the fiber is connected to an image processing station.

Bidirectional ground/air & air/ground link

The fiber can ensure 2 distinct roles:

  • Control of the drone with a wavelength Lambda 1.
  • Direct retrieval of video information via another wavelength Lambda 2. In this case, the drone must integrate this function as an option. It will include an electro-optical multiplexing / demultiplexing system since the fiber link is bidirectional.

In the same way, the ground control station will integrate a similar system.

Disposable fiber optic spools

It is impossible to reuse the fiber once deployed. This choice makes it possible to get rid of rewinding systems with trancanage and optical rotating joints, which are essential in a reusable cable link (in the case of a cable, the drone is linked to the ground by a tether, which considerably limits its possibilities of displacement and the areas in which its use is possible).

A use for specific missions

  • Either the length of the spool is calibrated according to the need: 1 spool / 1 mission. Then, the user disconnects the spool and switches to a new spool for a new mission (example: length of 300 m, 500 m, 1000 m or more).
  • Or a length X is deployed (for example 1000 m). This length is thus lost. The remaining fiber in the spool can then be reconnected for a new mission (the easiest way to do this in the field is to splice a connected pigtail). It is therefore necessary to find the right compromise between the number of uses and the initial weight and bulk.

The fiber does not suffer any constraint during its deployment

Less than 5 gr of traction are enough! In no case does the deployed optical fiber constitute a “leash” blocking the drone.

* Patent pending

About SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques

SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques, founded in 1972, designs, develops, and manufactures fiber optic components and assemblies, such as deployable spools, multi-fiber assemblies, sealed feedthroughs, and optical couplers. SEDI-ATI specializes in complex and harsh environments in the military, aerospace, industrial, medical, and research markets. More particularly in unmanned vehicle guidance applications, SEDI-ATI has developed a strong expertise in disposable deployable spools for land1 and underwater2 drones.

1 Use cases for land drones

Image for "reconnaissance and demining" application, from the post "Deployable fiber-optic spools for airborne drones" dated 15/02/2022
Reconnaissance and demining
Inspection of underground mines
Inspection of underground mines
Pipeline inspection
Pipeline inspection

2 Use cases for underwater drones

Mine action
Mine action
Wreckage exploration
Wreckage exploration
Hull inspection
Hull inspection
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