DIU to test Isotropic multi-beam terminals for naval vessels


SAN FRANCISCO – Isotropic Systems won two defense contracts in two months, an important sign the satellite terminal developer is diversifying its customer base, John Finney, Isotropic founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

On May 18, Isotropic announced a contract with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization established in 2015 to help the U.S. military gain rapid access to innovative commercial technologies. DIU will analyze the performance of Isotropic optical beam-forming antenna technology “during an extensive series of environmental and interference chamber tests through 2020,” Isotropic said in a news release.

DIU plans to measure the performance of customizable terminals capable of supporting multiple bands, including S-, C-, Ka-, Ku-, X- and Q-band. The terminals will be exposed to intense winds, saltwater and electromagnetic interference  to gauge their suitability for U.S. Navy vessels.

This work “may ultimately lead to milestone evaluations aboard U.S. Navy ships,” according to the Isotropic news release.

Isotropic terminals are well suited for naval applications because they are designed “to cover any commercial and military frequency bands,” said Brian Billman, Isotropic vice president product management. The terminals “seek multiple connections and multiple pathways to find the best links for any given scenario.”

Isotropic is not yet ready to announce the second defense contract, but Finney said the two awards signal the firm’s ability to continue attracting customers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It shows the resilience of the company and how attractive the technology is,” Finney said.

When it was founded in 2013 in the southeast England town of Reading, Isotropic intended to focus on the consumer broadband market. In an effort to broaden its customer base, Isotropic established a business unit in Linthicum, Maryland, in 2018 to serve U.S. government and defense customers.

“The pandemic highlights the importance of revenue diversity,” Finney said. “We want to address a wide range of U.S. government needs and a wide range of commercial space needs.”

In spite of the downturn in the aviation market due to the pandemic, Isotropic is holding discussions with aeronautical system integrators as it seeks to license its patented beam-forming modules to one or more partners.

It could take “a couple of years” to develop and certify an aeronautical terminal with Isotropic beam-forming modules,” Finney said. “By the time the product is ready, we all hope that COVID-19 is fully mitigated.”

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