Cabin avionics grow in scope and options
Choices widen as office-in-the-sky and IFE capabilities expand.
By Glenn Connor
Pres, Discover Technology Intl. ATP, Cessna 425
Combining business and relaxation, Honeywell has designed Ovation Select for both the modern electronic office environment and as a entertainment system. The latter connects hi-def widescreen monitors to large-format LCD technology for watching live TV or movies.
Productivity and efficiency are the true nature of corporate aviation. The capability of bizjet "tools" to improve the bottom line of investors and stock holders includes continuous improvement of aircraft speed, range, functionality and safety of flight.
In the past, speed and range were the major part of the challenge in aviation. Now, electronic connectivity is a requirement—not a frill—to maintain the business span of control. For the flight department tasked with updating their aircraft, or considering a new one, cabin and business systems can be an integral part of the decision-making process.
In the past year, tremendous progress has been made in business communications connectivity and cabin entertainment systems. The major challenge, of course, is keeping pace with almost weekly changes in cell phone technology, videoconferencing and security capabilities which passengers expect to work seamlessly when they board the aircraft.
Some of the answers to these challenges are complete integrated solutions, but this year new components and very affordable upgrade solutions have also become available.
Another thing to note is that high-tech office and entertainment systems are not just for big jets. Choices are available for small and midsize jet and turboprop aircraft like Citations and King Airs that provide wireless connectivity with passenger smartphones, PCs and other personal electronics.
For pilots and managers, another significant trend is the integration of information connectivity to both the cabin and the flightdeck. Investment in robust entertainment and communications capability can also be justified to support maintenance data, inflight tracking and, soon, even the means to support traffic management for oceanic and nonradar areas.
A common term you hear now from suppliers is "futureproof," meaning what you buy today will work and connect to new devices in the future. Futureproof is actually possible today with the use of standards for electronic equipment used in both entertainment and office systems.
For example, each year Apple has introduced a game changer in consumer devices such as iPod, iTouch, iPhone 3, 4 and, coming this summer, 5. Competing devices are being offered by Dell, HP and others, all of which must be accommodated. So for a passenger's smartphone or PC, connecting to a wireless network on your aircraft will work for this year and for some time to come.
Several problems have been addressed this year by a single remote control that makes adding to an existing cabin system a bit simpler. You may have several remote control units at home for each machine, such as a TV and cable video controller, receiver, Xbox or PlayStation. Now one remote can work everything, and it can be your smartphone.
Honeywell Ovation series
Ovation Select JetMap hi-def moving map and information system links easily with an aircraft's long-range communication satellite system to obtain news, sports, business and weather content.
The Honeywell Ovation Select cabin management system (CMS) is aimed at providing a complete solution to the bizjet as original equipment or an aftermarket addition.
Leading with the words hi-def, hi-speed and hi-touch, the design of Ovation Select is both a workplace electronic office environment and an entertainment system.
The system is designed to provide the full range of phone, e-mail, Internet, corporate networks and videoconference capabilities using high-speed network connections through SwiftBroadband. Satellite TV is live with coverage in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, China and Russia.
Ovation's entertainment systems connect hi-def widescreen monitors to large-format LCD technology for watching live TV or a movie in Blu-ray or other format. Players are also backward-compatible with DVD and CD standards allowing 1 standard to be used for all 3 types of disk media. Ovation even has surround sound for when you watch the latest blockbuster complete with mid/high, full-spectrum and surround speakers and subwoofers.
Passenger controls feature either seat-based controls or the latest innovation—an intuitive touchscreen-icon-based control that can be customized to the operator's taste. Through the controls you command lighting, temperature, sound and video choices.
Honeywell has also designed flexibility for the viewer, and each passenger control can select any of the cabin video sources, such as a movie, live TV/gaming system, or carry-on electronics like video cameras. Ovation also features XM radio, which provides more than 170 audio channels in North America.
Ovation is also designed with a media dock that supports iPod and game consoles to connect to video and sound systems—so carry-on gaming or music can be connected and controlled at each seat or broadcast to those interested.
Even though a great many network services are available for the bizjet market, nearly all installations today consist of just 3—Iridium Satellite, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband and Gogo Biz. Aircell is the only company in the industry to offer all 3 services. Each provides various levels of global coverage and voice and data capabilities.
Iridium is the world standard for satcom voice service in flight and has global coverage even near the poles. Data rates for the Iridium network are 2.4 kbps making this service more than adequate for voice communications and text, but slower than a dial-up.