uAvionix Corporation announced it has achieved U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System Identification Friend System (AIMS) Mk XIIB certification of its first Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder, the RT-2087/ZPX-B. With this certification, ZPX-B becomes the world’s smallest, certified micro-IFF transponder, reducing size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) characteristics of typical IFF transponders by more than 90%, and at less than half the size, one-third the weight, and one fourth the power consumption of other Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)-targeted IFF solutions.
Identification Friend or Foe is an identification system designed for command and control. It enables military and civilian air traffic control interrogation systems to identify aircraft, vehicles or forces as friendly, and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator. The certification attests to its IFF capability and its interoperability with military equipment fielded by NATO and its allied countries. Incorporation of IFF technology into small, tactical, and attritable platforms allows them full participation into the cross-troop, cross-service branch, and cross-nation collaboration and situational awareness that prevents fratricide.
The ZPX-B enables IFF capability for small and tactical Group 1-4 UAS, thanks to its SWaP at 3.3 in3, 60 grams, and power consumption of 3.5 Watts. Transmitting at 54dBm, ZPX-B provides civil transponder modes A, C, S, and ADS-B Out, as well as military modes 1, 2, 3, and 5 Levels 1 and 2 – all individually configurable. ADS-B In functionality provides situational awareness and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities to the host platform. The ZPX-B can leverage the host GPS and pressure altitude through the control interface, or take inputs from a compatible GPS such as the uAvionix TSO-C145e truFYX and pitot-static system. Serial and Ethernet-based communications protocols are available. Crypto compatibility complies with AIMS 04-900A Option B, which includes the KIV-77 and KIV-79.
“It is one thing to produce a 53 gram Mode V microtransponder; it is quite another to actually get it certified. This is a big step forward in reducing battlefield fratricide for all those small drones the DoD – and their Allies – are producing.” – Maj Gen, USAF (ret) James Poss, founder of ASSURE – the FAA’s Drone Research Center of Excellence.
Passive IFF Reception for Situational Awareness
In addition to the ZPX-B, uAvionix introduces the ZPX-R, a passive ADS-B and Mode 5 Level 2 receiver for ground-based, shipborne, or airborne reception for situational awareness and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability. Mode 5 Level 2 incorporates periodic “squitters”, much like ADS-B, but encrypted. These squitters enable situational awareness in areas where Mode 5 interrogators are absent, increasing the scalability of deployment. ZPX-R can provide data in multiple formats, including Open Mission Systems (OMS) for incorporation into tactical displays or ACAS Xu or similar DAA processors.
Unclassified Integration, Testing, and Demonstration with Crypto Emulation
For military programs or OEMs looking to integrate a Micro-IFF into their platforms, ZPX-B incorporates an internal crypto-emulator that enables development and test independent of COMSEC-controlled equipment (cryptos, key loaders, GSA safes, NSA keys, etc.) subject to onerous handling requirements. This emulator is compatible with the emulator found in IFF test equipment like the Viavi IFF-45TS. Additionally, uAvionix also offers a KIV Emulator having the same form factor as a KIV-77. By substituting it for the KIV-77 used by any Mode 5 interrogator, that interrogator now can participate in test and integration activities without the COMSEC security burdens otherwise imposed.