As part of an ongoing technology collaboration to advance the future battlespace, Lockheed Martin and Verizon recently flew 5G-enabled drones to capture and securely transfer high-speed, real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data from aircraft in flight to geolocate military targets. The demonstration at Lockheed Martin’s 5G test range in Waterton, Colorado showcased the power of millimeter-wave 5G networks to move data from aircraft in flight over Lockheed Martin’s multi-site, multi-vendor 5G.MIL pilot network.
The companies demonstrated two key advances in technology that can provide critical applications for the United States Department of Defense (DOD).
To provide enhanced situational awareness and command & control (C2) for commanders and service members in the field, the first test involved real-time ISR radio frequency (RF) and streaming video data transmitted over 5G millimeter wave links. This allows advanced signal processing algorithms to occur at the tactical edge. The low latency and reliability provided by the Verizon network was critical in being able to process this data in close to real time, which was displayed in a livestream video feed.
The second test demonstrated the technology’s ability to passively detect and geolocate RF signals that could be used for communications, sensing, or jamming, capabilities that will enable the DOD to detect and target adversarial assets in a military environment.
“To stay ahead of our adversaries, military decision-makers need the timely and accurate information that 5G.MIL delivered in this demonstration,” said Dan Rice, vice president of 5G.MIL Programs at Lockheed Martin. “By blending advanced commercial 5G capabilities with military capabilities using secure, open standards, we are helping to make the DOD’s vision for integrated deterrence a reality.”
“Verizon is the network America relies on, and our Private 5G Ultra Wideband networks provide the security, reliability, capacity and low latency that the defense sector depends on,” said Srini Kalapala, Senior Vice President for Technology and Product Development at Verizon. “By demonstrating the mission critical connectivity that our network provides, we are demonstrating how 5G and edge computing can help the DOD address their strategic priorities and continue to develop advanced solutions.”
For this latest 5G-enabled drone demonstration, Lockheed Martin flew four rotary wing drones on coordinated ISR missions while linked to two Verizon On Site Private Network nodes, which enables the secure transfer of ISR data. The companies then seamlessly and securely moved the data captured by the drones between a 5G private network and a surrogate public network. The ability to use private and public 5G networks is key because it will extend the reach of 5G.MIL technology to a range of military environments where commercial networks may not be available or appropriate.
The drones then successfully located a target in the field that was transmitting a low power RF signal. The signal was detected because real-time drone sensing data was transmitted over the Verizon network and then processed by advanced signal processing algorithms running on edge compute resources, enabling geolocation of the signal source.
This demonstration follows Lockheed Martin’s and Verizon’s announcement last year of a formal partnership focused on faster delivery of cutting-edge technologies to the DOD. The companies have already conducted a joint demonstration using a Verizon private 5G network installed at Lockheed Martin Space’s 5G Test Range in Colorado, and future demonstrations will expand ISR test scenarios to include precision geolocation of moving RF emitters and extend experimentation of public-private secure interoperability in 5G.MIL hybrid networks with military data links.