Originally Posted by zplizzi
How do current unmanned vehicles communicate to their base stations? From research it appears that the main methods are direct radio communications, satellite communications, and communication relayed through battle-management aircraft.
What are the capabilities of each of these methods? Eg. bandwidth capability, size of communications device and antenna, etc.
Also, which of these methods is used most often in UAV's? It seems like satellite communications would induce unacceptable lag that wouldn't allow for direct control of the drone (to geosynchronous orbit and back, nearly half a second).
Direct radio communications seem like it would be unfeasible at long ranges - or when there are obstructions between the base station and the drone (eg terrain).
Sorry for all the questions, and thanks for the help!
Unfortunately your query is difficult to answer for a variety of reasons. The first being that the question is so broad.
For unmanned vehicles, there are UAV's, UGV's, UUV's/ROV's, and USV's. These are aerial, ground, underwater and surface vessels respectively.
Naturally, the type of vehicle is going to impact comms methods. Similarly, the scale of the vehicle is going to impact comms. A small, backpack-carried UAV is not likely to use the same systems that a large UAV like a Global Hawk would for comms.
The antenna size can be inferred, if one knows the RF used, as there is a relationship between frequency and antenna. For more specific details, I suspect that those who know, are not in a position to share such information for security reasons.