Fingers on the Pulse

22 April 2024

We gathered a group of industry SMEs and customer stakeholders together at the iAero centre in Yeovil for a demonstration of a new optical communications technology for airborne platforms.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, AVoptics and Leonardo UK showcased the promising capabilities of free space optical communications. This innovative method utilises modulated light beams to facilitate secure data exchanges in scenarios where traditional radio communications impractical or vulnerable. Notably, free space optical communications stand out for their potential in delivering high-speed, supremely secure, and nearly undetectable transmissions.

AVoptics Ltd, a UK-based enterprise, is at the forefront of this technology's development. The company is renowned for its excellence in engineering photonics solutions tailored for demanding conditions, ensuring both durability and portability for its clientele.

Leonardo has collaborated with AVoptics to explore this new a technology for use in uncrewed aircraft which demand low size weight and power to succeed. Under contract from Leonardo UK the two companies have developed new operational scenarios for ‘air launched effects’ platforms, identifying how secure communications could transform military capability against a capable adversary.

The event was the last in a series of workshops focused on development of Future Aviation and Uncrewed Systems hosted by Leonardo at iAero. The centre is a collaboration between Somerset Council and Leonardo and sits atthe heart of the Home of British Helicopters in South West of England.

Andrew Lee, Managing Director of AVoptics, extended his appreciation towards the iAero team for their warm reception and commended LUK for fostering unity among industry stakeholders and customers. This partnership highlighted AVoptics Ltd's commitment to pioneering in the realm of Free Space Optical technology.

"This technology marks a significant leap in establishing ultra-secure and covert communication channels, an essential innovation in the current climate where radio frequency security is increasingly challenged". He also expressed enthusiasm for future ventures with Leonardo and engagement with partners across the SME, customer, and NATO networks.

Leonardo UK Programme Owner, Simon Stacey added: “It has been exciting to bring together specialists from across the Leonardo, SMEs and the customer community to discuss this new technology, and explore how it might transform how uncrewed platforms communicate in the future. Leonardo is at the forefront of Rotary Wing Uncrewed Air Systems and Air Launched Effects with an unrivalled range of mission payloads. This work demonstrates Leonardo’s wider commitment to bring together the strengths across its sites; so that discrete technologies can effectively be cohered into a useful capability. We are exploring how a combination of ‘big industry’ and agile SMEs can deliver the right outcome together quickly and effectively for the military customer.”