June 29, 2007, Paris, France--According to European space company EADS Astrium, a real-time laser optical link was demonstrated live at the Paris Le Bourget airshow on the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (DGA) stand. The link (called Liaison Optique Laser Aéroportée, or LOLA), routed via an airborne Mystère 20 aircraft in the south of France and a geostationary satellite, makes it possible to achieve two-way communication between the DGA stand at Le Bourget and the aircraft. The team an the stand was in permanent contact with the flight crew. Exceptionally clear footage of the cabin and countryside below was shown on screens on the stand, proving the operational performance of this kind of laser optical link.
LOLA's success is the result of EADS Astrium Toulouse working together with Lumics (Berlin, Germany) and numerous other companies and agencies. Lumics specializes in fiber-coupled laser devices in the 800 to 1080 nm wavelength range.
Last December, in a world first, Astrium achieved two-way laser optical links between a Mystère 20 aircraft, provided by the French Procurement Agency's Flight Test Centre at Istres, and the Artemis communications satellite. In early 2007, the Thales Alenia Space communications chain was integrated into the system, which for the first time enabled audio and video data communication to occur in real time between the aircraft and the ground via the Artemis geostationary satellite.
LOLA was made technically possible by Astrium designing and building an optical terminal that serves as a precursor to a future drone system. A number of technical innovations have been introduced on LOLA that have enabled Astrium to demonstrate exceptional system performance in an aeronautical environment, including:
-- error-free 50 megabits/s transmission
-- link acquisition in less than a second
-- pointing with an accuracy of better than 1 microradian
The success of LOLA points the way to an operational optical communications system of up to 1 gigabit per second using existing technology.