NBAA Convention News

Connectivity Accelerates Skyward

 - October 19, 2019, 11:06 AM
Gogo Business Aviation is adding ground-based 5G connectivity.

Astronics AeroSat SATCOM antenna technology for business aircraft will be used by Collins Aerospace for its new LuxStream service in partnership with SES
Astronics AeroSat SATCOM antenna technology for business aircraft will be used by Collins Aerospace for its new LuxStream service in partnership with SES
Connectivity is king, and a glittering retinue of onboard service and systems providers is holding court at NBAA 2019, offering multiple options for surfing the web, streaming content, video conferencing, and just about anything else you can do online at home or in the office, aboard a business aircraft. Attendees can also see how providers are exploiting these digital networks to enhance flight operations, maintenance, and safety.

Gogo Business Aviation (Booth C9043) arrives in Las Vegas amid construction of a U.S.-Canada 5G air-to-ground (ATG) network, scheduled to go live in 2021. The 5G infrastructure will support all spectrum types (licensed, unlicensed, and shared) and bands (low, mid, and high), and enable adopting technology advances as they develop, the Colorado-based onboard connectivity specialist said. CEO Oakleigh Thorne noted the company is introducing the network “at the same time as the terrestrial telecommunications companies are deploying the same generation of technology on the ground,” calling that “a first in the in-flight connectivity industry.” Built on its existing infrastructure of more than 250 towers, the 5G network will use unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4-GHz range and employ beamforming technology. Gogo’s existing 3G and 4G networks in the continental U.S. and in Canada will provide backup.

SmartSky has ambitions “to catalyze aviation’s digital transformation.
SmartSky has ambitions “to catalyze aviation’s digital transformation.

Following commencement of service earlier this year, SmartSky Networks (Booth C9430) is completing rollout of its high-speed broadband ATG network, using a mix of 4G LTE and emerging 5G technologies. Coverage of the contiguous U.S. is expected by year end. SmartSky’s patented spectrum reuse, advanced beamforming technologies, and 60 MHz of spectrum provide “significantly enhanced connectivity,” according to the Research Triangle, North Carolina company. Scheduled carrier JetSuiteX, a division of light jet charter operator JetSuite, has signed on as launch customer for the service, a choice made, said JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox, “after a rigorous selection process including my personal inflight evaluation.”

In May, SmartSky announced Mosaic ATM will develop new data streams, processing and fusion techniques for the network’s Skytelligence in-flight apps platform, which aims “to catalyze aviation’s digital transformation,” said SmartSky chairman and CEO Haynes Griffin.

James Person holds Viasat’s Ka-band antenna which brings high-speed broadband to mid- and super-midsize jets.
James Person holds Viasat’s Ka-band antenna which brings high-speed broadband to mid- and super-midsize jets.

Satcom network operator and service provider Viasat (Booth C9020) is heralding at NBAA the arrival of high-speed satcom broadband in mid- and super-midsize jets—previously unavailable as the airframes weren’t large enough for mounting high-speed satcom antennas. Viasat’s newly STC’d Ka-band Global Air Terminal (GAT) 5510 and 5518 systems deliver up to 16 Mbps speed to both cabin and cockpit, enabling multi-site video conference calling, access to corporate VPN connections and e-mail, streaming videos, and other bandwidth-intensive applications. Introduced as a line-fit option with Embraer’s new Praetor 600, by year’s end at least 12 platforms spanning Bombardiers, Dassault Falcons, and Gulfstreams are expected to offer the GAT 5510 as a line-fit option or aftermarket installation, said James Person, director of global business development for the California company.

The GATs include a two-axis steerable, two-way Ka-band antenna with an integrated antenna control unit, an antenna power supply unit, and a modem. The antennas can be tail or fuselage mounted (the 5510 can be hatch mounted). The terminals tap into Viasat’s ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2, and European KA-SAT satellite platforms, providing coverage over North and Central America, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic flight tracks, and Europe.

 Satcom Direct is fresh from cutting the ribbon on stage 2 of a four-stage expansion of its Melbourne, Florida headquarters and data center.
Satcom Direct is fresh from cutting the ribbon on stage 2 of a four-stage expansion of its Melbourne, Florida headquarters and data center.

Attention “Data-hungry business aviation customers who are looking for the fastest inflight connectivity with unlimited data usage”: Satcom Direct (Booth C10217) brings Inmarsat’s newest Jet ConneX high-speed data service, JX-Pro, to the show, with a maximum information rate of 20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload—33 percent higher speeds compared to Jet ConneX’s previous fastest plan, according to Inmarsat.

Satcom Direct arrives on the heels of completing the second of a four-stage expansion of the data center at its Melbourne, Florida headquarters, which securely hosts private networks for clients connected to Satcom Direct hardware, software, and satellite connectivity services. The buildout will “support current and future internal and customer-facing services,” said Chris Moore, Satcom Direct’s president of business aviation, providing “more data management options for our aviation clients.”

Making its first NBAA appearance since rebranding following this year’s acquisition by United Technologies Corp., Collins Aerospace (formerly Rockwell Collins; Booth C10808), in partnership with satellite network operator SES, is showcasing LuxStream, the latter’s forthcoming high-speed Ku-band satcom network. LuxStream will deliver speeds up to 25 Mbps in the U.S. and 15 Mbps over the rest of the globe, excluding the polar regions. The SES-15 Ku-band satellite, which covers the U.S., became operational in January. Collins provides the cabin router and KuSAT-2000 satcom terminal for LuxStream, and its ArincDirect unit is service provider.

With the amount of data broadband systems can collect, “There is so much you can do,” said Collins Aerospace v-p and general manager of information management LeAnn Ridgeway, adding that Honeywell is committed “to bring that total solution together” for customers.

In September, Vista Global signed on as LuxStream’s launch customer, with first installations going on VistaJet’s 36 Bombardier Globals. Equipage of the XO-owned and -operated super-mid fleet will follow. (Collins maintains its relationship with Inmarsat and Honeywell to sell Jet ConneX Ka-band satcom service.) As the launch with Vista suggests, Collins is targeting the aftermarket for LuxStream sales, focusing on Globals, Challengers, Falcons, Gulfstreams and other large-cabin models.

Astronics AeroSat SATCOM antenna technology for business aircraft will be used by Collins Aerospace for its new LuxStream service in partnership with SES
Astronics AeroSat SATCOM antenna technology for business aircraft will be used by Collins Aerospace for its new LuxStream service in partnership with SES

Connectivity hardware manufacturer Astronics (Booth C9836) is also a key player in the LuxStream offering, showcasing at the Convention Center (Booth C9836) the antenna chosen for the high-speed service, its T-series Ku-band tail-radome-mounted satcom antenna. Total LuxStream hardware weight is 51 pounds.

Honeywell workers install JetWave hardware for GX Aviation aboard the company’s B757 flying testbed.
Honeywell workers (above) install JetWave hardware for GX Aviation aboard the company’s B757 flying testbed.

In addition to its connectivity hardware, Honeywell International (Booth N1816B; N4302) counts itself among major in-flight airtime services providers, and is highlighting its “flexible and affordable” onboard service plans for JetWave Ka-band and SwiftBroadband Ku-band access. Additionally, its GoDirect Cabin apps include Flight Efficiency, which uses advanced analytics to reduce fuel consumption by three to four percent; Connected Maintenance, which provides prescriptive and predictive data that reduces maintenance costs; and Ground Handling, a tool for increasing ground ops efficiency.

Honeywell is meanwhile expanding its aftermarket offerings, and in May reported completing “the largest single aircraft update within the business jet space” in the refurbishment of a Bombardier Global Express. The upgrade included installation of Honeywell’s JetWave Ka-band satcom system; a Primus Elite integrated avionics system; an updated flight management system, enabling use of Honeywell’s GoDirect services; and an Ovation Select CMS, and CNX900 wireless cabin network router. The makeover was designed by the company’s Retrofits, Modifications & Upgrades Center of Excellence in Phoenix.

The Airmont KxL network, below, increases reception to as high as 3.8 Mbps.
The Airmont KxL network, below, increases reception to as high as 3.8 Mbps.

For executive airliners and large-cabin jets already satcom equipped, French startup Airmont (Booth C12748), in its NBAA debut, is presenting Airmont KxL, a satcom accelerator; and Airmont-Cast, which streams stored content from personal devices to onboard displays.

Airmont-KxL can increase reception “from a few hundred kilobits per second up to 3.8 Mbps," said Airmont executive chairman and founder Jean-François Gault, adding that fuselage modifications are unnecessary and “the time and the cost of installation are minimal.”

Airmont’s content-streaming Cast is based on the cast app on smartphones, is a carry-on set-top box that connects to a local network and HDMI TV port, and available by monthly subscription or one-time purchase.

Alto Aviation (Booth N4631) brings premium audio and entertainment systems that meet audiophiles’ stringent standards to business aircraft cabins—while also being among the smallest and lightest, according to the Sterling, Massachusetts tech firm. Entering its third decade, Alto offers the nVelop line of surround sound loudspeakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers, in addition to passenger controls, customized cabin audio equipment, and turnkey audio and entertainment systems. Standard equipment on most OEM’s business jets, almost 3,000 Alto audio systems are flying on corporate aircraft.

Aircraft tracking is becoming a connectivity cornerstone. Spire Global (Booth N3118) is creating a network of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) sensing nanosatellites aimed at bringing the San Francisco company’s AirSafe ADS-B tracking coverage to the entire globe. Spire currently has some 100 nanosatellites and 30 ground stations collecting ADS-B and other radio wavelength data. While tracking, Spire announced in September the network is collecting each day 5,000 radio occultation profiles, which can measure physical properties of the atmosphere—tripling the amount of this data currently available worldwide—in an effort to predict when and where severe weather events occur. The “higher quality” of radio occulation information is “providing crucial data of exceptional new quality,” said Peter Platzer, CEO of the privately held firm.

For terrestrial-based tracking, the RadarBox XRange from Tampa, Florida’s AirNav Systems (Booth C8423) offers real-time ADS-B flight position reporting by decoding ADS-B radar signals. The stand-alone XRange provides the same imagery Air Traffic Controllers see on their screens, identifying aircraft by flight number, type, altitude, heading and speed, updated each second. Coverage areas include Europe, U.S., Canada, Atlantic, and Pacific, and AirNav claims more than 15,000 XRange users in more than 150 countries.