Horizon Technologies has completed the development of its Xtender satellite phone monitoring
system, which enables small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate as signals intelligence
(SIGINT) collection platforms.
Xtender supports simultaneous monitoring of L-band communications from Thuraya and Inmarsat
iSatPhone Pro systems. It weighs less than 0.5 kg and can be integrated on small military or
commercial UAVs; it can also equip CubeSats.
The unit works by acting as the remote RF front-end for a FlyingFish Airborne Satellite Monitoring
System. It collects the transmit and receive sides of a satellite phone call and converts them to
compressed digital data streams for transmission via the UAV’s datalink to the ground control
station (GCS), at which the FlyingFish system is integrated.
Now in its third generation, FlyingFish processes the data and has the capability to simultaneously
monitor and analyse 64 duplex channels (32 Thuraya channels and 32 iSatPhone Pro channels),
and is available with optional integrated AIS and GPS receivers. As well as communications,
satellite phones broadcast geolocation data required for target co-ordinates.
A benefit of the remote transmission capability is that no secure information remains on the air
Jane’s understands that Horizon Technologies plans to demonstrate Xtender to US Special
Operations Command (SOCOM) in the United States in late March 2018, and that the US Navy
has expressed interest in adding Xtender to the submarine-launched Blackwing UAV, and a small
single-use UAV deployed on naval vessels.
The company plans to offer the solution as a complete self-contained package customised for
different UAV types and Cubesat space platforms.
Satellite phones provide long-range voice and data transmission capabilities in areas without GSM
infrastructure, enabling communications to take place without the threat of monitoring associated
with a local GSM network. One of the drivers for the development of Xtender is to provide forward
operators with a readily available satellite phone monitoring capability. While many dismounts
deploy on operations with manpack RF detection and direction finding (DF) capability, they do not
routinely carry a manportable solution for locating, monitoring, and intercepting satellite phone
communications. The user must wait for the availability of a strategic asset to provide this
capability.Now Xtender opens up SIGINT collection capabilities when it is difficult to get coverage
using other aerial SIGINT platforms, enabling users to rapidly deploy an organic passive
SATPHONE SIGINT capability via organic small UAVs.