Business aviation stands to be one of the beneficiaries of Cobham Satcom’s new Aviator S family of satellite communications systems, which should be FAA-approved some time in 2015. The UK-based group, which last year acquired satcom specialist Thrane & Thrane, unveiled the Aviator S technology at June’s Paris Air Show. The key breakthrough is the company’s success in reducing the number of boxes required for the system from three to two, by incorporating the amplifier and diplexer into the antenna unit.
“Aviator S is about making satellite communications equipment smaller and more powerful,” said Kim Gram, vice president of Cobham Satcom’s aeronautical business unit. “This is a step change for the industry because, previously, the amplifier had to be installed somewhere on the aircraft and it generated heat and so was hard to locate because it has to have the appropriate ventilation.” This issue is critical for business and general aviation aircraft which, being generally smaller than airliners, have less space available for fitting such equipment.
Aviator S has been developed as a full family of Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satcom systems, ranging from the Aviator 200S unit to the Aviator 700SD. The new equipment will meet the Inmarsat Class 4, 6 and 7 requirements and will support high-data-rate waveforms, so operators will benefit from higher performance connectivity.
“The real step change is based on the greater versatility [in communications] from being able to use professional levels of IP [internet protocol connectivity] with a high level of data integrity,” Gram told AIN. Aviator S will give pilots the choice between ACARS data and IP data access in the cockpit and will also provide high-performance IP connectivity to the cabin for passengers using voice calls, email and internet browsing.
Cobham (Booth No. C10506) has yet to announce pricing for the new Aviator S equipment and still to be revealed is the exact scale of the weight saving from the existing three-box units. The company is committed to selling the existing Aviator systems at least until 2017 and Gram claimed that these will continue to be a perfectly satisfactory solution for many operators for quite some time. The Aviator 200S, providing IP data, ACARS data and multiple voice services, will be the first of the new-generation systems to enter service.
In May Cobham received an STC from EASA covering the installation of its current Aviator 300 satcom system on Cessna’s Citation 550, Bravo and S550 models. The STC was developed in partnership with Denmark’s Scandinavian Avionics, and the partners are now looking to extend the program to other Citation 500 series jets.