A CASE STUDY: Planning Airborne Network Test Events

Wyle Reduces Test Cycle with STK

Solution | UAV/Aircraft Missions


Wyle performs test and evaluation of new airborne networks and ground systems for USAF ESC/XR and the DoD.


STK is used during the planning phase of nearly every test event to predict link margin and antennae gain, optimize performance and enhance technical decision-making.


STK’s modeling and simulation helped reduce the test cycle, saving Wyle and its customers’ time, money and effort.

The Electronic Systems Center (ESC) is the main acquisition armof the United States Air Force. ESC’s Airborne Networking Divisionis developing numerous programs of record designed to bringemerging capabilities and services—aerial retrans, Voice over IP, FullMotion Video, Mesh Networks and mobile-ad hoc networks—todisadvantaged users on the ground. ESC uses RIAC, a DoD InformationAnalysis Center, to vet test studies and analysis of newerCOTS-based technologies that can meet this critical warfighter need.

Wyle, the prime contractor for RIAC, is using AGI’s commercialoff-the-shelf (COTS) STK software as a conceptual planning tool for ESC and DoD test events and analysis. Zack Shaw, Wyle systemsengineer and program manager, says “The hope is that some of thebest COTS technology will find its way into a program of record tobenefit disadvantaged users today.” By testing performance early,Shaw says, Wyle’s customers are assured that the system is “notgoing to cause interruption of service when it’s fielded and theturnaround time for advancing the technology is a lot shorter than anormal acquisition would be.“

Specifically, STK is being used to evaluate:

  • Route planning for air and ground assets
  • Optimal antenna configuration
  • Comparison of predicted vs. actual values
  • Impact of terrain
  • GPS availability

“There is so much you can do just in modeling and simulation to cut down on the test cycle. It saves you time. It saves you money. It saves you effort.“ — Zack Shaw, WYLE

While Wyle found it was easy to input Digital Terrain ElevationData into STK through the Image Converter Tool and to determinewhen the optimal number of GPS satellites would be present fora live flight, Shaw says “one of the cooler functionalities that STK offers is route planning for any particular asset.” During tests,Wyle used STK to:

  • Choose the best UAV route to either optimize performance or simulate real world scenarios.
  • View the impact of terrain on ground mobile users.
  • Repeat the same route during live test and validate the model for accuracy.

Shaw says, “If our objective function is range and throughput,STK is a powerful tool in order to define what those variables areand what the constraints are in order to come up with the bestpossible outcome. “

Analyzing optimal antenna configuration to ensure solid air-to-groundcommunications was a vital piece of Wyle’s job. STK enabled theteam to recommend the best antenna for the system with confidence.“It’s not just a great planning tool. It’s a good evaluation toolwhen it comes to systems.”

Wyle continues to utilize STK for test event analysis for ESCand other DoD customers. Future work includes validating moremodels, which would result in high government efficiencies relativeto cost, schedule and system performance. Concludes Shaw,“There is so much you can do just in modeling and simulation tocut down on the test cycle. It saves you time. It saves you money.It saves you effort. “