In just over a decade, the UAE-owned Yahsat has become one of the world’s top 10 satellite enterprises, reaching more than 80 per cent of the global population. Based out of Abu Dhabi, home to some of the most exciting technology collaborations to emerge in recent years, Yahsat has quickly established itself as a high value system integrator and enabler of advanced communication solutions for governments in the Middle East and beyond.
Steering the operator’s defense strategy is its dedicated division – Yahsat Government Solutions. At the Middle East’s largest defense expo – IDEX – in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, Yahsat unveiled an ambitious roadmap for further disruptive growth and consolidation in the global defense communications industry.
Launched in late 2020, Yahsat’s ambitious half a billion US dollars Thuraya 4-NGS next generation program includes the construction of a new state-of-the-art satellite system and the development of a mobility portfolio. These deliver greater reach and advanced performance capabilities and mark a significant milestone in Yahsat’s mission to provide flexible satcom-based services for government customers, having integrating L-band (preferred for portable, critical and weather resilient communications) with its spectrum of other frequency bands (Ka, Ku and C) in 2018.
Yahsat and Tawazun Economic Council (Tawazun), which is the key government facilitator of the growth and development of the UAE defense and security industry, have agreed to form a national satcom development company to produce antennas, modems and other satellite-based critical technologies in the country. The new entity will make use of local and international expertise to boost national industrialisation efforts, besides fulfilling strategic requirements.
Yahsat is set to play an integral role in ensuring that the new company’s products meet the requirements of its customers with a differentiated and targeted product development and portfolio strategy, enabling the UAE Government and other local and international users to tackle key technology development. It will source product development capabilities from leading solution providers and manufacturers to lay the foundation for local production lines and integrated value chain management.
By developing bespoke solutions for critical national requirements, Yahsat and Tawazun expect to raise the bar for government customer experience, especially among key decision-makers in the UAE, GCC and international markets. Their mission is to capture value and establish the UAE as a producer of satellite-enabled government and defense technologies, entrenching its reputation as a sustainable and sovereign space economy.
Today, a majority of defense customers have to navigate a laborious procurement and integration journey to purchase, equip and maintain complex vehicular platforms. Yahsat has simplified the process through collaborations with technology innovators such as L3Harris Technologies and NIMR, the leading manufacturer of combat-proven wheeled military vehicles whereby it deploys mission ready, satellite-enabled defense vehicular systems for high-end customers. By pre-qualifying its Comms-on-the-Move (COTM) solutions to work efficiently on NIMR’s Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and L3Harris’ vehicular mounted combat systems, Yahsat has removed integration and timeline risks. This ensures greater structural and design integrity of platforms with on-board combat systems, sensor compatibility and optimisation of integration costs.
Yahsat is leveraging the expertise of the UAE-based autonomous system specialists, such as Marakeb Technologies with its experience in satellite-based beyond line of sight (BLoS) solutions, to enable connectivity for Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) and to geographically extend their range of operations. Satellite is crucial for integrating all combat systems on USVs including ISR cameras and radars when they have to survey wide expanses of land and sea. The company has tapped into Marakeb’s strengths in automation, and integrated autonomous combat systems to support critical applications, including vessel navigation, command and control, video streaming, border monitoring, enemy targeting and tracking, remote weapon control, navigation and marine radar systems, electro optical, infrared cameras, and underwater sonar scanning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the necessity of national initiatives to overcome the threats posed by natural disasters and crises. In such instances, satellite communications are inevitable. Yahsat has made significant contributions to the UAE’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) both in terms of equipment and services, to augment the country’s emergency preparedness. The company has developed systems that enable telemedicine, virtual diagnostics, education and other critical applications for underserved communities. These ensure immediate relief in regions cut off from cellular wireless networks, saving countless lives. At IDEX 2021, Yahsat displayed the efficacy of its solutions through a series of live enactments using a telemedicine solution on a government ambulance fitted with a mobile satellite terminal.