Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


High bandwidth wireless communications with 'the aircraft of the future' will allow rapid offloading of aircraft performance, security and other data, thus allowing more efficient operation, new services and safer travel. It is extremely challenging to
achieve this using wireless radio frequency systems due to the limited overallocated spectrum. Free space optical communications provides an attractive unlicensed alternative, potentially offering communications at Gbit/s. In this case
key challenges include tracking the aircraft with the communications beam, and creating lightweight airborne terminals.
This project will combine a retro-reflecting airborne terminal that is free from tracking with a novel holographic
beamsteering 'base station' offering precision tracking of multiple terminals to provide the basis of Gbit/s data offload from
aircraft which are landing and airborne platforms.

Planned Impact

The major impact will be to EADS, who are the lead partner in this TSB proposal. Their future vision for aircraft includes many thousands of autonomous sensors embedded in the structure at manufacture. These will harvest energy to power themselves, and communicate wirelessly with a data store on the aircraft. The sensors will not be flight critical, but replace human inspection of airframe components. There will therefore be a large quantity of data on the aircraft concerning that needs to be offloaded. The proposed system will communicate with the aircraft on final approach, and download the data
and send it to the appropriate maintenance organisation. A successful project will allow them to sell this capability as a service to airfields, and assist in their future aircraft strategy, ultimately allowing them to remain competitive. It will also provide EADS with new business opportunities in areas such as metrology, or any others where solid-state beamsteering is desirable (see academic beneficiaries for descriptions of other areas). For airlines it will allow decreased maintenance costs, increased operational efficiency and better knowledge of the health of their fleet. This will ultimately benefit passengers in that airlines will be able to offer a better service, at higher levels of safety and potentially lower cost.


10 25 50
Description We have developed a communications system that uses light to communicate with a small UAV at a range of up to 1km
Exploitation Route Airbus are undertaking further developments themselves, and we are undertaking follow-on work
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine

URL http://www.projecthyperion.co.uk/
Description Airbus are using the findings to undertake further development work in the field of free space communications. We have won further funding based on the findings, in collaboration with Airbus and others.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Economic

Description LEIT space
Amount £110,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2015 
End 05/2017