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L-3 Communications to Help DARPA Build Drone-Based Internet System

By Rich Smith - Mar 13, 2014 at 9:31PM

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L-3 will develop "pods" for Shadow UAVs to create mobile Internet hotspots.

The Department of Defense awarded 13 separate defense contracts Thursday, worth $453.2 million in total. Defense contractor L-3 Communications ( LLL ) won two of them:

  • The larger of the two awards, a $38 million contract modification to an existing firm-fixed-price contract, calls for L-3 to supply non-long-lead critical spare parts needed for Royal Australian Air Force's fleet of 10 C-27J transport planes, currently on order. Delivery of these parts is due by March 2015.
  • The smaller, but perhaps more interesting award is a $16.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- DARPA. L-3 will be supporting Phases 2 and, if the appropriate contract option is exercised, also Phase 3 of the DARPA mobile hotspots program.

As DARPA explains on its website, this project aims to provide "high-bandwidth communications for troops in remote forward operating locations" lacking access to traditional wired Internet. If successful, this experimental program will use air, mobile, and fixed assets to create a "gigabit-per-second tactical millimeter-wave backbone network" extending from military commanders all the way down to the lowest-echelon warfighters. The UAV pods will be an integral part of this project.

In Phase 2, L-3 will be expected to deliver a "solution" consisting of radio and router pods that can be mounted aboard Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) manufactured by Textron ( TXT 0.18% ). These pods will be used to create UAV-borne mobile hotspots in the vicinity of the UAVs. Completion of Phase 2 is expected to be achieved by March 12, 2015.

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