EBACE 2011: Thrane and Thrane shows news handset at EBACE

 - May 17, 2011, 5:50 AM

Thrane & Thrane is demonstrating its new Aviator wireless handset here at EBACE (Stand 979) as well as the company’s full range of Aviator satcom systems, which operate on the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service and provide airborne Internet access and voice call capability.

The new lightweight (177 g) Aviator handset features noise and echo cancellation and comes in a compact package with a 2.2-inch color display and tactile controls that will be familiar to any mobile phone user. The handset’s lithium-ion battery allows for 24 hours of standby time. Up to six handsets can be installed on any Aviator satcom system. A 28-VDC cradle, available for handset charging, is expected to receive FAA certification shortly, followed by EASA certification.

Thrane & Thrane is celebrating its 30th year in business this year. Twin brothers Lars and Per Thrane, who launched the business by manufacturing maritime satcom products, founded the Danish company in 1981. Twenty years ago Lars learned to fly and saw an opportunity to develop satcom products for the aviation market. A big part of Thrane & Thrane’s business is building ground infrastructure, such as receivers, transmitters and radio management systems for Inmarsat, which operates the satellite network. “In parallel we started building satellite equipment for ships and aircraft,” Lars Thrane said. “We have intimate knowledge of the equipment. It’s been a big benefit for us.”

Thrane & Thrane’s Aviator satcom comes in three main configurations: systems that work with low-gain, medium-gain and high-gain antennas on the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service. SwiftBroadband provides global satcom coverage.

The smallest system is the Aviator 200, which offers a single voice channel and connectivity speed of up to 200 kbps, which allows emails with attachments. The Aviator 300 uses an intermediate-gain antenna and allows speeds of up to 332 kbps, with video streaming and VOIP connectivity. Larger aircraft that can accommodate a high-gain antenna can be fitted with the Aviator 350 and 700 systems, although many large aircraft use the Aviator 200 and 300, according to Thrane.

The 350 and 700 deliver speeds up to 432 kbps, and the 700 can handle up to four channels of voice and data simultaneously. All the systems include Wi-Fi capability so passengers can easily log on to the Internet using laptops and mobile devices.

For aircraft that have older Thrane & Thrane Aero-M or Aero-I systems installed, the company is offering a simple upgrade path to the Aviator 300. The upgrade allows the Aero-M or Aero-I TT-5006A intermediate-gain antenna to be retained, making for a much simpler and lower cost installation. Taking the installation cost into account, the upgrade can save owners about 50 percent when switching from Aero-M or Aero-I to the Aviator 300, Thrane said. “Just replace two boxes and keep the antenna.”

Thrane, who flew his King Air 200 equipped with an Aviator 200 to Geneva on Monday, sees most users opting to fill airborne satcom pipelines with data, with infrequent use of voice services. “We’re used to being connected all the time,” he said. “I cannot believe anybody buys an expensive aircraft and no Internet. There’s an immediate benefit from Internet [connectivity].”

Aviator systems are certified for installation on a variety of aircraft, and more are being added to the list. The Aviator 200 has received supplemental type certification on the King Air 200 and Cessna Citation 500, 525, 525A, 550, S550, 552, 560 and 560XL.