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Case Study: DAZZLE

The DAZZLE project was kicked off in 2012 to research optical communications using retro-reflectors. With a budget of £1.2M, the project is expected to end in 2017.

DAZZLE is led by Yoann Thueux and his team at Airbus Group Innovations based in Newport, with support from Prof. Nigel Copner and his team at the University of South Wales, Acreo (a research institute based in Sweden) and Welsh SMEs.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate a 1Gbps optical link for UAVs using a 1550nm laser and a Modulated Retro-Reflector (MRR) at a range of 1km+.

The MRR is a small, optically passive device that can be flown by a small UAV and does not require high amounts of power and precision pointing like a laser terminal does. The MRR simply reflect a laser beam from a ground terminal and imprints data onto the light.

An airborne platform such as a UAV can use this small device to download vast quantities of mission data to a base station in real time.

So far the team has demonstrated data transmission at 50Mbps from a flying UAV at ranges up to 1200m. A new prototype MRR capable of data rates up to 200Mbps will be produced in 2016.


Key technologies: Modulated Retro-Reflector using Multiple Quantum Wells, mechanical laser pointer, Octocopter UAV.

Key benefits: Low weight optical communications device (300g), low power (0.5W), high speed (up to 1Gbps).

Key applications: Optical communications for UAVs, HAPS, Low Earth Orbit satellites, and planetary rovers.