SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  AF071-077 (AirForce)
Title:  Network Services for a Dynamic Wireless Airborne Network
Research & Technical Areas:  Information Systems

  STATEMENT OF INTENT: Provide full network and information access to the warfighter in air, ground, and space domains.
  Objective:  Identify and develop Network Services to work effectively within dynamic wireless airborne networks.
  Description:  The Department of Defense (DoD) is engaged in initial efforts to develop an IP-based airborne network (AN) which interconnects mobile airborne platforms and provides interconnectivity with space and terrestrial networks. A background to this effort can be found at [1]. Critical to this objective is formulation of Network Services. The term “Network Services” is used to describe services necessary for the effective access to and utilization of the network’s communications Transport services. The difference between Network Services and Transport Services can be further clarified by use of the widely adopted Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) Reference Model: Network Services functionality is usually provided primarily at the Applications Layer, while Transport services are provided by the Data-Link, Network, and Transport layers of the OSI Reference Model. Examples of Network Services employed within the Internet include Name Resolution (e.g., Domain Name System), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Network Time Protocol (NTP), and various security authentication services and policy services for network admission, etc. However, Network Service protocols developed for the Internet are not readily applicable to the AN or other dynamic, wireless networks. These Internet protocols were designed with the implicit assumption that the networking environment would be static, terrestrial-based, and utilize wire-line links. As such, technology innovation is required to address some or all of the following challenges particular to airborne networking: • Support for Autonomous, Disconnected Operations: Network Services for the AN must be able to operate autonomously, without connectivity to ground-based Network Services. Given geographic range of military operations, reliable access to ground-based servers cannot be assumed. • Node Mobility and Dynamic Topologies: Network Services must be able to support mobile nodes and function throughout dynamic topology changes. Topology changes will result from dynamic nodal membership (node entry and exits) as well as link degradation/breakage due to nodal mobility, jamming, etc. • Services hand-off: Quasi-persistent nodes may loiter in pre-planned flight paths for extended periods -- and are therefore candidates for hosting airborne-based Network Servers. However, these platforms must eventually leave their “station” to return to base, and thus need to hand off their Network Services functions to a comparable loitering platform. • Efficiency: Airborne Network Services must be efficient in the face of a bandwidth-constrained links. • Interoperability: Network Service implementations for the AN must be interoperable with standard Internet implementations to enable interconnectivity with space and terrestrial networks. Technology innovation is required to produce Network Service solutions that can address some or all of these challenges.

  PHASE I: Identify mechanisms and protocols that can deliver Network Services -- e.g., name resolution, dynamic host configuration (including dynamic address configuration), etc -- over wireless airborne networks. Analyze the performance and robustness of the candidate solutions; present the pros and cons of candidate solutions. Model or simulate selected protocol(s) and their performance within an AN scenario.
  PHASE II: Design, develop, and demonstrate a prototype of a Network Service (e.g., name resolution, dynamic host configuration, etc.) within an experimental airborne networking environment.

  DUAL USE COMMERCIALIZATION: Military application: The capabilities developed under this effort could be implemented within or for use by an airborne platform such as JSTARS or AWACS. Commercial application: The capabilities developed under this effort could be modified to work over a commercial airline fleet for improved collision avoidance, route optimization, real-time weather and atmospheric/turbulence condition reporting services, etc. Reference [2] provides a broad overview of future commercialization possibilities.

  References:  1. ESC HERBB Airborne Networking web site, 2. MIT’s Technology Review Magazine, 3. Airborne Internet Consortium,

Keywords:  Airborne Network, MANET, Mobile and Ad-hoc Networking, Network Services, DNS, DHCP, NTP, Infrastructure Services, Network Modeling and Simulation

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