A systems approach to portable tactical video datalinks
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In response to these new threats and declining budgets, a new system, TAClink, recently "came into being". TAClink is a single-man portable system that can receive, record, display, and play back imagery transmitted from a surveillance aircraft.
This report describes how the systems engineering process1 was applied to the development of TAClink. Throughout the process, the author applied the most techniques he could to maintain a "top-down" systems engineering approach. However, the author was operating under severe constraints: no internal or external funding, only a two month period to produce a prototype, and poorly defined system requirements. Consequently, the approach deviated from a pure systems engineering process and became "bottoms-up."
TAClink was designed, prototyped, tested, and delivered to the US Army last year. The system was recently upgraded (TAClink II) using technological advances and feedback from operational users. The system is designed using commercial off-the-shelf components, resulting in a dramatic savings in size, weight, and cost over the existing Army ground station. TAClink is currently manufactured in Arlington, VA and has been operationally deployed with U.S. Forces in this nation's war on drugs.
The author and Mr. Gerald V. Bate worked side-by-side to develop TAClink for its rapid fielding. Their combined efforts are largely responsible for the creation and success of the system.