XM Radio’s satellite weather link closes in on certification

 - March 19, 2008, 7:05 AM

A new cockpit weather service from XM Radio that is about to make its debut aboard business jets deserves a closer look by aircraft operators who are interested in providing XM digital satellite radio programming in the cabin.

XM Radio has signed a teaming agreement with WxWorx, an affiliate of Baron Services, for the airborne weather service, which would beam real-time graphical weather data from satellites to the cockpit. The ability to add audio content for just a few dollars more could make the service a hit with aviation buyers.

XM now has just under one million subscribers for its two-satellite radio service, which provides 100 channels of entertainment, including some 30 channels of news, sports and talk programming, the most prominent of which are CNN Headline News, Bloomberg News Radio and BBC World Service. With the company’s launch of XM Satellite Weather data services, meteorological information for single-engine general aviation aircraft, business aircraft and airliners will be available anywhere over the continental U.S. and at any altitude, according to XM Radio.

Weather information includes NexRad radar, graphical at-altitude wind speed and direction, lightning strikes, WxWorx-patented storm-cell identification and tracking technology and other information. Weather graphics can be overlaid on map displays in the cockpit.

Cockpit equipment that can handle the data formats includes Garmin’s recently announced G1000 integrated cockpit avionics suite and Heads Up Technologies’ XM audio/ data receiver platform, which can be integrated with a range of aviation gear, including electronic flight bags and multifunction displays. Heads Up anticipates certifying its receiver by year-end.

Rockwell Collins has selected XM Satellite Weather in-flight data service for the Pro Line 21 avionics suite on the Cessna Citation CJ3, and Heads Up Technologies has received a PMA for the XM antenna and cabin audio receiver. A subscription to the weather service costs $49.99 a month and an extra $4.44 a month for the audio content. The weather data receiver is priced at $3,750. Weather services from a number of additional providers are priced comparably.