U.S. defense spending for UAV data links and ground-control stations reached billion-dollar mark in 2010

MQ-9 Reaper

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 23 Oct. 2011.U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spending for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) data links and UAV ground-control stations exceeded $1 billion in federal fiscal year 2010, report market researchers at Frost & Sullivan in Mountain View, Calif. DOD spending in 2010 was $797.8 million for UAV data links, and $209.8 million for UAV ground-control stations, Frost & Sullivan says in the report U.S. Department of Defense: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAV), Ground Control Stations and Data Links.

UAV data link and ground-control station spending reflects DOD efforts to use UAVs in multi-purpose and multi-role support functions, and adapt a control architecture that is open, standard, scalable, and that enables operators to control several UAVs from a common control system, Frost & Sullivan analysts say.

UAV-related tactical data links, meanwhile, accounted for nearly half of DOD spending for data links, Frost & Sullivan analysts say. Tactical data links exchange information and situational awareness during combat.

The U.S. Navy consumed most of the UAV-related data link contracts, accounting for 85.9 percent of the total spent by all the services in 2010, Frost & Sullivan analysts say. Updates to Common Data Link (CDL) specification and developmental systems will influence more than 10,000 DOD airborne and ground intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems.

Increased dependence on UAVs also will drive the need for redundant anti-jam data link capabilities, analysts say. Defense against electromagnetic pulse requires solutions such as shielding and redundancy. Emerging technology such as the U.S. Army’s federated universal synchronization engine (FUSE) that will combine video feeds and sensor data from several UAVs on one ground control station also may find a niche within the ground-control station market.

The migration toward standardized ground-control station software will open opportunities for companies that have established a foothold in the ground-control station market, analysts say. Other opportunities will involve UAV electronic warfare, data link encryption, and laser weapons.