During a short trip aloft from Newcastle International Airport in Northern England, passengers along for a demonstration flight aboard a Boeing Business Jet were treated to a sampling of top stories from BBC World News, courtesy of in-flight entertainment system supplier Airia. But they weren’t able to switch over to watch their favorite sitcoms or game shows. That’s because the Airia system is the first to offer live in-flight news globally, including coverage over the oceans. It uses the Inmarsat Swift64 service to deliver video signals to the aircraft, but not the sort of TV buyers of airborne satellite-direct television enjoy.
Still, the achievement creates possibilities for live broadcasts of content outside regions where airborne satellite TV coverage is currently available. The milestone was the culmination of nearly two years of development by the company, which worked on the concept with technology partners Telenor of Norway and SPCI of Canada.
How does the concept work? Airia collects news feeds from the BBC, which it then compresses and sends on to ground stations, which beam the content to Inmarsat satellites some 24,000 miles above the earth. Three Inmarsat satellites transmit the video data to aircraft equipped with Aero-H/H+ antennas and special IFE equipment, which decompresses the data and makes it available for viewing.
Trials on board the BBJ followed successful ground testing of the cabin avionics, which have been built for Airia by SPCI. The system will be available later this year.