As the Department of Defense becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the need for reliable and secure communication networks has become paramount. Part one of this airborne readiness series discussed how the United States Department of Defense (DoD) recognized this need and has been exploring ways to leverage 5G and wireless connectivity advancements to improve mission-critical communications, particularly in airborne environments. To that end, the DoD has been collaborating with technology partners to execute proof-of-concept pilots that demonstrate the capabilities of 5G networks in compromised or limited-connectivity environments.
Overview of Completed Pilot Projects
Below is a breakdown of some of the proof-of-concept pilot projects previously executed for the initiative.
Verizon supported a proof of concept in Colorado. The exercise showcased an Android team awareness kit (ATAK) and situational awareness capabilities on commercial and private 4G LTE networks in a compromised or limited-to-no-connectivity environment. The goal of this exercise was to provide a complete sensory telemetry capability in a cellular bubble and to transmit vital personnel, vehicle, and asset data to an overarching hybrid C2 integration and management platform – both static and mobile – for comprehensive situational awareness with full ATAK compatibility.
The exercise provided tailorable methods of transmitting data back to the tactical operations center. The demonstration highlighted the unique architecture of a mobile, commercial, and private LTE network with full communication and telemetry capabilities.
A pilot project demonstrating C2, ATAK, and situational awareness capabilities on a private LTE network was tested in a compromised or limited-to-no-connectivity environment (RF denied environment). The exercise highlighted the unique architecture of a drone-mounted, private LTE network with full communication and telemetry capabilities (to include asset command and control) backhauled via a 4G / 5G network to the Verizon network. The goal of the demonstration was to support complete sensory telemetry capability in a cellular bubble of more than seven kilometers and to transmit vital personnel, vehicle, and asset data to an overarching hybrid C2 integration and management platform (both static and mobile) for command and control, comprehensive situational awareness with full ATAK compatibility.
The DoD used Verizon, Omni-Response, and Cornet Technology to enhance and provide Arctic communications in communications rich and denied environments. This solution included leveraging the commercial Verizon network when available or a private 5G network, providing the warfighter with mission critical command and control. This solution powered by Omni-Response enables the warfighter to effectively communicate over multiple networks federated on the edge compute side providing near real-time remote command and control of all personnel, assets, sensors, vehicles, drones, and robotics from one platform. This solution was critical in solving communications connectivity and interoperability in any environment.
A school safety pilot was deployed in Texas for a comprehensive solution using multiple organizations including Verizon and Omni-Response. This pilot program provided gunshot detection, impact detection, man-down detection, drone flight, and alerting capabilities. Also, integration work was performed to bring in live video, weapon detection, auto door locks, and existing alerting into one comprehensive solution.
Omni-Response and Cornet Technology used Verizon’s network to provide backhaul and interoperability between communications rich and denied environments using private and commercial 5G networks. The private networks can be linked together, and the servers can be federated to provide mission critical biometrics and personnel locating information while remotely controlling all assets. This use case created the ability to create cellular infrastructure in denied environments and enables drone and robotic flight remotely to enhance survivability and minimize pilots and operators.
Mission Critical Communications on a Drop Zone
Special operations and airborne personnel can use the combined solution provided by Verizon, Omni-Response, and CornetTechnology. This use case provides the warfighter with the initial entry communications into a communication denied environment with all software hosted on the private network. The private 5G network is jumped by a single paratrooper and provides connectivity to 64 users simply carrying a phone and wearing a watch. This provided the commander with real-time situation awareness and command and control. The commander had visibility of the team’s biometric data, location, body camera, impact, man-down detection, live two-way chat, and push to talk with all users. Also, any user could remotely control all personnel, sensors, assets, drones, and robotics.
The path to 4G/5G airborne-to-ground readiness involves many steps. Throughout the journey, one thing is clear: airborne readiness helps support the DoD’s flexibility and is not just mission enhancing, but mission critical. The capabilities that have been identified during the pilot programs are helping expand capabilities both at home and overseas while helping contribute to a more secure enterprise. In the future, the military and other parts of government will benefit greatly from 5G and wireless connectivity advancements in ways that aren’t even conceivable today.