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Laser communication is the next generation of wireless communication technology for high-bandwith and long distance point-to-point communication scenarios involving moving objects. It works by utilizing an accurately steered, eye-safe infrared laser beam to transmit data unguided through air and allows orders of magnitude superior performance parameters than competing X-, Ka-, E- or even D-band communication systems.

Key Aspects of Laser Communication

Long distance

The maximum achievable distance depends on the atmospheric conditions and becomes larger with higher altitude. ViaLight’s systems achieve up to 600km in the stratosphere and some 5,000km in space.

High Data Rate

Laser communication allows bandwidths inacessible to other wireless long distance communication technologies. ViaLight’s current systems allow up to 10 Gbps and 100 Gbps are already on the horizon.

Eye safe

ViaLight’s systems operate at a wavelength of around 1550nm, where the human eye is not transparent and laser beams with many centimeters in diameter are very eye safe. These and other aspects ensure that ViaLight’s systems are safe to be used and cannot harm humans or animals.

Payload friendly

All of ViaLight’s products are developed with their application in mind and are carefully crafted to fit the restrictive low size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) constraints of airborne and space scenarios.

Unregulated global use

Laser communication is not regulated by the ITU, can be used without restrictions and does not require costly licenses. Its inherent small beam size avoids interference issues by nature and renders any restrictive regulation in the future as highly unlikely.

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Laser communication is also 100% secure and cannot be tapped, jammed or spoofed. It also offers the physically lowest possible latencies that are up to 30% shorter than for optical fibers.

Laser Communication vs. RF

Laser communication is in direct competition with other point-to-point wireless communication technologies. It is fundamentally not much different than radio frequency solutions but operates at much higher frequencies that lead to significantly higher achievable data rates, smaller size and better security and power efficiency. So no matter whether comparing it to X-, Ku-, Ka-, E- or even D-band communications – laser communication will always achieve better performance in these dimensions.

 

Higher Data Rates

 

World record for E-band communication: 6 Gbps

 

World record for Laser Communication: 1720 Gbps

 

Laser communications physically allows many orders of magnitude higher bandwidth than any radio frequency technology today or in the future. The current world records for long distance wireless communication in the E-band and optical domain are a manifestation of these fundamental differences. While both records were established in 2016 by the Fraunhofer IAF and our friends at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), respectively, was the achieved data rate 286 times higher for laser communication. And the advance will only grow larger in the future.

 

Smaller Size
Laser communication uses electromagnetic waves with wavelengths many orders of magnitude shorter than radio frequency (RF) technologies. This leads to the fact that laser communication systems are significantly smaller than competing RF solutions saving on weight, volume and the project budget.
More Secure and Power Efficient
Laser communication systems use beams with very small beam divergence physically inacessible to radio frequency technologies. This makes laser communication systems both more secure and more power efficient because most of the beam actually reaches its target instead of being radiated into the wild.

Extensively tested products

A selection of projects ViaLight realised:

  • 80km air-to-air link in the stratosphere
  • 146km ground-to-ground link
  • 60km air-to-ground link from a jet with strong vibrations
  • 64km air-to-ground from the stratosphere
  • Countless flights with research aircraft DO228

Resilient Links independent on Weather

Weather phenomena such as rain, fog, snow, etc. may have an impact on laser communication systems or may be completely irrelevant dependent on the application and the link scenario under consideration.

Above the clouds…


Weather is not relevant for scenarios like

  • Satellite-to-satellite,
  • Air-to-air above clouds and
  • Satellite-to-air,

as all of these communication links take place above usual weather phenomena such as fog, rain, snow, etc. These connections work unaffectedly above the clouds even if the storm of the century is raging below.

Through the clouds…


Applications that require connections to and from the ground such as

  • Satellite-to-ground and
  • Air-to-ground

may be affected by local weather phenomena. This also affects all high frequency radio links, and the entire satellite industry since inception. For laser connections multiple low cost and compact optical ground stations easily allow for data to be re-routed to sunnier skies in case one ground station is unavailable.

Reliable Operation in Extreme Environments

ViaLight’s products have seen some of the most demanding conditions you can think of and withstand even the harshest environments: large temperature cycles in the stratosphere, strong vibrations on an aircraft, radiation exposure on a satellite, … The videos below give an impression of their robustness.

Air to ground link from a jet
  • Tornado jet with speed of >750km/h
  • Extreme shocks and vibrations due to afterburner
  • 7km altitude and up to 60km link distance
Atmospheric channel measurements
  • Different weather scenarios
  • High-rate laser links from research aircraft DO228
  • Collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Stratospheric air to ground link
  • Stratospheric operation with harsh temperature conditions
  • 1.25 Gbps data rate achieved
  • 64km link distance