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Fraunhofer to develop optical communications system

Date Announced: 20 Mar 2023

Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP) in Glasgow, part of Fraunhofer UK, is leading an ambitious project to develop an optical communications system with a very low size, weight, and power (SWaP) footprint, optimised for use on high-altitude pseudo-satellites (HAPS) and other SWaP-limited platforms.

HAPS platforms are light-weight, unmanned aerial vehicles offering prolonged flight at altitudes into the stratosphere. They can be rapidly deployed and provide persistent coverage over large areas. HAPS platforms find applications in disaster relief, remote sensing and monitoring, and the provision of telecommunications to remote areas. With increasing congestion of the radio frequency spectrum, ever higher bandwidth requirements, and tight SWaP constraints optical communications are key to enabling such applications.

The project – Micro-LED HAPS - will harness advances in micro-LED light sources and single-photon detectors to create an ultra-compact optical comms system, for links between HAPS and other platforms/ground stations. The collaborative project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Fraunhofer CAP will work in partnership with 5 partners from across the UK: the

  • University of Strathclyde
  • TAO Tech UK Ltd
  • A2E Ltd
  • Wideblue Ltd
  • Kubos Semiconductors Ltd

The project builds upon two decades of pioneering research at the University of Strathclyde’s Institute of Photonics in the design, fabrication, and applications of micro-LEDs.

Dr Gerald Bonner, a Senior Researcher at Fraunhofer CAP and project leader, said: “As a chip-scale technology offering high switching speeds and low power consumption, micro-LEDs are a potent new source technology for optical communications. When used in tandem with the exquisite sensitivity of modern single-photon detectors, they enable practical optical comms systems with low size, weight, and power requirements, ideally suited to small platforms such as HAPS, where such considerations are paramount.”

Glenn Jones, Managing Director at TAO Tech UK Ltd, added: “this is an exciting opportunity for us to help develop an innovative and advanced concept for communications with our HAPS. The proposed technology would most certainly extend, further, the range of services and options we will be able to offer our clients worldwide.”

Mark Sansom, Group Engineering Director at A2E/Wideblue, said: “we are excited to be working alongside our partners in this project, looking to realise the benefits of cutting-edge technology in new application areas.”

The project is funded by Innovate UK, which drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. Innovate UK connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. Innovate UK funds business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Its support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.

For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org

Fraunhofer CAP is a not-for-profit research and technology organisation (RTO) offering industry a professional development capability in the field of photonics. Based in the UK, Fraunhofer CAP is an independent affiliate of Europe’s leading independent research organisation. Its expertise lies in the development of a wide variety of laser sources and optical systems. We engage with industry through funded projects or direct contracts.


Fraunhofer CAP

E-mail: david.armstrong@fraunhofer.co.uk

Web Site: https://www.cap.fraunhofer.co.uk/

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