SmartSky Grows Patent Portfolio as Service Launch Looms

 - March 10, 2021, 11:04 AM

SmartSky Networks has now amassed more than 200 granted patents as the company prepares for commercial launch of its air-to-ground broadband connectivity service by November, according to CEO Dave Helfgott. These patents cover the company’s network architecture, including its beam-forming technology and seamless handover capability that are key to its service, as well as those for hardware, digital solutions, and “future technology,” he said.

“SmartSky set out to transform aviation through innovations in communications technology and services,” Helfgott said. “Our expanding patent portfolio represents the latest advances in a host of sophisticated tech needed to deliver on the promise of the truly connected aircraft.”

While acknowledging the company missed previous estimates for service launch, Helfgott told AIN that he has righted the ship since he joined in October, retiring all risk and fixing a supplier issue. “The network is now built out and the last piece of network hardware upgrades—radio heads—are slated to be installed this summer. We’ll also have a network software upgrade completed before June.”

He also said that its three data centers are up and running, while an 11-site corridor with the new radio heads installed on transmitting towers in Florida will begin final testing next month. Following these tests, the new radio heads will be rolled out to its full network, paving the way for commercial service to begin.

According to Helfgott, a final investment round is imminent that will fully fund the company to commercial service launch. He added that SmartSky has STCs for antenna and hardware installations in several midsize and large-cabin business jet models and will expand this effort to include more business aircraft, including light jets and turboprops.