The TopFlight satellite communications terminal that Thales launched at last year’s Farnborough airshow will be installed later this year on new-build corporate aircraft produced by an as-yet unidentified OEM and should be certified to support WiFi-based passenger use by the second quarter of next year.
Peter Hitchcock, director of avionics systems with Thales Aerospace, said here Tuesday that the preliminary design review has been completed and wiring installation will start next month. The certification schedule has been synchronized with the projected availability of Inmarsat class 6 service.
The TopFlight box, which also forms part of the SITA/Airbus OnAir GSM passenger cellphone system, is designed to use the forthcoming Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service with its 432 kbit/s data rate. Thales has opted to pursue voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) instead of WiFi first in the corporate environment to avoid the country-by-country regulatory approvals barrier that the GSM services have to surmount, though the unit will support all-round office-in-the-sky Internet-based services.
The single-box approach is designed to minimize the on-board LRU count, Hitchcock said. The TopFlight satellite data unit was designed in accordance with the Arinc 781 standard and will meet all other air/ground comm needs, including air traffic control communications and other cockpit services such as weather map downloads. The 6MCU box, weighing less than 25 pounds and including a 30- watt high-power amplifier, replaces three conventional boxes occupying between two and four times that volume.