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Flight Testing of Airborne Systems in 2020

Over the past decade, there has been a huge rise in the use of advanced technological systems which are airborne in almost every field – systems that bring us more accurate and detailed information about the climate, weapon and defense airborne systems, mapping and geographical survey systems operated aerially, and more. Different sectors in the industries of technology and aeronautics perform more and more test flights for observation and remote sensor systems, antennae arrays, radars, etc. This trend has brought about the need for aircraft companies that specialize in performing aerial tests for such systems in different stages of their development. These companies are able to accommodate the tested systems on their experimental planes, that were specifically modified to carry and operate those systems. Here are interesting examples of flight testing of airborne systems done in 2020: 

Testing a new defense system for the IDF

The development of a new, laser-guided Israeli missile interception system has been in the news all over the world recently. A few years ago, Israel let out that it was developing such a system to protect its citizens from rocket attacks, that would work alongside the successful land-operated Iron Dome rocket defense system. This January, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s R&D department performed a flight test which proved that the system could successfully overcome atmospheric disturbances and keep its laser beam accurate through them. The successful results of the testing informed the system’s developers that they were on the right path to achieving their goal – an operational system that would be able to intercept rockets even under unfavorable climate and atmospheric conditions. 

Other countries, such as the US, have tried developing laser-based defense systems in the past, but did not manage to find a good solution for the need of a laser high enough in energy to provide a beam stable and strong enough. Different types and ranges of lasers were tested, usually chemical ones. The Israeli Defense Ministry reported that its system uses an electricity-based laser rather than a chemical one. The only way to learn whether it would work well was to perform a flight test and checking it aerially. This is one recent example of how flight testing of systems is crucial to their development and to improving and even saving lives worldwide. 

Experimental aircraft tested a new communication system in the US

In February 2020, the American company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GAAS) aerially tested a new communication system whose purpose is to allow satellites to send and receive data from the company’s unmanned aircraft, MQ-9 Reaper. GAAS reported that the test was the first time a communication system managed to create an air-to-space communication line that would be impossible for an enemy to break into and pick up confidential data. The flight test verified that the system could provide the MQ-9 Reaper with wide-bandwidth communication that would be safe from enemies’ break-in attempts. 

Up till now, the only communication with satellites in space was through the old SATCOM system which is radio-based. SATCOM does not allow for a large amount of data to be transferred quickly enough. The new system, when it becomes operational, would be able to overcome this obstacle, since it can carry 300 times more data than the SATCOM does at the same time.  

Flight testing using experimental aircraft requires specialized flight teams which are experienced in flying and testing airborne systems. LifeAir maintains a fleet of experimental planes and personnel that have thousands of flight hours’ experience in the flight testing field.

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