Lithuanian technology startup Astrolight is now working within NATO’s DIANA segment to develop free-space optical communications for secure naval ship-to-ship links.

Laser Links Help Secure Ship-to-Ship Communications

April 12, 2024
Lithuanian technology startup Astrolight is now working within NATO’s DIANA segment to develop free-space optical communications for secure naval ship-to-ship links.

As part of the growing use of lasers for communications, Lithuanian startup Astrolight has been accepted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) program. The company’s dual-use laser technology (see figure) is well established for commercial applications and now will be applied for defense use. It is effective for communications from space to Earth and between ships, will help strengthen and secure tactical communications between naval ships. Using ship-to-ship optical communications, naval vessels will no longer rely strictly on RF/microwave radio technology. 

Astrolight, based in Vilnius, has been working with the Lithuanian Naval Flotilla to develop its free-space optical communications technology which combines wide bandwidth with high security. For an experimental system, Justinas Žukauskas, Lieutenant Commander of the Lithuanian Navy, explained: “The upcoming prototype signifies a pivotal addition to our technology, introducing alternative communication methods through laser technology while simultaneously addressing the crucial imperative of reducing electromagnetic signatures for heightened operational stealth.” He added: “Moreover, this technology holds potential for adaptation in the land domain as well.” 

Optical Communications Expand into Defense Uses

Through NATO’s DIANA, Astrolight will have access to expertise, resources, and funding opportunities to further develop its technology for dual-use applications. The DIANA membership will enable the company to use its space-to-ground laser communications terminals for terrestrial communications and expand the use of the technology into defense markets. Laurynas Mačiulis, Astrolight co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), said: “As a commercial company specializing in the development of dual-use telecommunications technology, our partnership with NATO DIANA is pivotal in transitioning our expertise into the defense sector.He added: “The participation in DIANA’s program involves guiding us through defense-specific requirements and facilitating our understanding of the nuances associated with this market. It also encompasses adapting our space-developed product for terrestrial applications, with a primary focus on enabling laser communication between navy ships.”

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