Dstl contracts Plextek to lead £2m research programme to improve the range and reliability of military communication systems

Cambridge, UK – 1st February 2017 – Design and innovation consultancy, Plextek, in a competitive tender against a mix of large defence contractors and research organisations, has been appointed by the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to lead the £2m, four-year Adaptive Communications Transmission Interface (ACTI) research programme.

Under the ACTI programme, Plextek will lead a team of specialists and experts from academia, to investigate cross-layer processing as a way of enabling Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radio systems to utilise directional antenna techniques. An important goal of the programme is to create disruptive technologies that will improve the quality, reliability, data rates and range of military communications systems.

A Dstl spokesperson: “The ACTI research is an important programme for the Ministry of Defence. Military ad-hoc communication systems are currently limited by the range of an individual radio link and self-interference as messages are repeated through the network.”

“The ACTI research programme will explore the theory that current systems can benefit from the use of directional antennas. Over the next four years, Plextek, along with its partners, will be developing innovative MANET protocol stack and antenna technology that aims to demonstrate the benefits envisaged.”

The techniques that have been applied to achieve ad-hoc (infrastructure-less) connections and dynamic routing have been studied for many years under the general banner of MANET. However, the MANET ‘multi-hop’ approach has so far not delivered the anticipated step change in wireless system performance. Through the use of novel directional antennas, the ACTI programme will address the complex underlying causes of this, including link range and interference within the network by message forwarding. Cross-layer processing techniques will be developed to tackle the difficulties in allocating radio resource at the MAC layer, the complexity of dynamic routing in a mobile scenario and the needs of the IP layers (which assume a level of link stability that may not always exist).

Peter Doig, Business Manager, Defence at Plextek: “With this research programme we’ll be doing some pioneering work on MANET architectures that include directional, steerable antennas which have the potential to tackle some of the underlying matters that have hampered multi-hop MANET networks, with a view to enabling the next generation of military ad-hoc radios to provide an operational advantage to our military forces.”

“In teaming with our academic partners, we have the complete range of expertise to deliver the programme, including Plextek’s proven pedigree in applied research and innovation. Based on our industry-leading expertise in electronics design, antennas and propagation, we will be exploring opportunities to exploit this research programme to deliver effective technologies that improve military communications systems in the future.”

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For more information call us on 01799 533200 or email: press@plextek.com

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