24 May 2023
Project News

Coherent Free-Space Optical Communications to be tested at Talisman Sabre

24 May 2023

SmartSat’s Coherent Optical Communications Project has been invited to showcase their ground-breaking high data rate optical communication technology as part of Defence Science and Technology Groups Launchpad Technology Demonstration Event at a major Defence exercise called Talisman Sabre in July. The University of Western Australia (UWA) showcase is planned around an interactive display of a transportable free-space optical communications terminal. This terminal was used to demonstrate 112 GB/s coherent communications via an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2022, and via a light aircraft in 2023. At the Talisman Sabre VIP day event, UWA plan to demonstrate the terminal’s autonomous aircraft acquisition and tracking capabilities.

The Department of Defence conducts Exercise Talisman Sabre every two years and the 2023 version will be the largest yet. Approximately 30,000 military personnel intend to participate, almost double the number involved in 2021. Now in its tenth iteration, Talisman Sabre is the largest bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force and United States military, reflecting the closeness of our Alliance. Confirmed participating partner nations in Talisman Sabre 2023 include Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, France, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand will attend as observers. Talisman Sabre 2023 will run from 22 July to 4 August primarily in Queensland but also in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

As part of the Launchpad campaign, UWA also plan to conduct a free-space optical communication demonstration via a flying UAV or equivalent target in Canberra soon after the Talisman Sabre visit. This will involve the terminal autonomously acquiring the tracking the UAV using a combination of GPS, machine vision, and tip-tilt adaptive optics systems, to establish a robust single-mode fibre coupling between the terminal and UAV, even in the presence of fast UAV motion and significant atmospheric turbulence. Using this optical link, we can then use our coherent communications modem to transmit and receive a 112 Gb/s data stream in any of 100 optical C-band ITU channels, thereby demonstrating a combined channel capacity of >10 Tb/s.

Feature image: the Western Australian Optical Ground Station (WAOGS) at the University of Western Australia Campus in Perth