AIRBORNE CONNECTIVITY

Cabin avionics grow in scope and options

Choices widen as office-in-the-sky and IFE capabilities expand.




Aircell plans to introduce this year what it calls the world's first airborne smartphone with a large, bright antiglare touchscreen for a clear view even when the sun is streaming through the cabin window.

Swift­Broad­band service operates on 3 geostationary (Inmarsat I-4) satellites and provides global coverage with connection speeds up to 432 kbps, and although it works well, some feel it's not the same as a typical Internet connection.

Gogo Biz service is Aircell's own mobile broadband service, using a network of wireless towers in the US. In fact, Gogo uses a modified version of the same 3G mobile phone technology used by the major cell phone providers.

Aircell is the only company that manufactures equipment for the Gogo Biz network, which provides voice quality and Internet speeds rivaling those on the ground. Anybody flying commercial today can buy a Gogo Wi-Fi pass and stay connected for the flight for as little as $12. Soon Air­cell will add the ability to make voice phone calls on this network (and the others) using the company's smartphone.

For Gogo Biz service you can surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail with attachments, download files and, soon, make ground-quality calls. Aircell has 2 lightweight equipment packages for Gogo Biz—the ATG 4000 and ATG 5000—which include the hardware in the aircraft needed to connect to the Gogo Biz network.

And for the Swift­Broadband service which uses the Inmarsat service Aircell offers the Aviator 200—a lightweight system designed for the smallest business aircraft with data speeds up to 200 kbps. The Aircell Aviator 300 is also available using an intermediate-gain antenna (IGA), which provides seamless near-global service with data speeds of up to 300 kbps.

Aircell Axxess—the company's flagship communication system—provides 2 channels of Iridium service for voice and narrowband data. And for inflight information services Aircell's Iridium-based products can deliver services including the Air­show network and UniLink.

EMS Aviation

Introduced at NBAA last year and featured at the AEA 2011 convention, the EMS Aspire line covers small to midsize corporate aircraft and features interchangeable transceivers, standard wiring and many common components, as well as a range of antenna options.

In order to communicate with the modern world you need modern equipment, and EMS designs, builds and supports cabin systems for office and inflight entertainment for a wide range of aircraft. EMS Avi­ation has an integrated set of systems for commercial airline, bizjet and helicopter operations for office connectivity and fleet tracking management.

Also notable is that EMS provides systems for emergency medical service, airborne firefighting and offshore oil helicopter operations. EMS is in fact one of the single largest suppliers of satellite antenna systems and high-speed data trans­ceivers and cabin networking for all of aviation.

The EMS Aspire line introduced at NBAA last year and featured at AEA 2011 covers small to midsize corporate aircraft and features interchangeable transceiv­ers, standard wiring, many common components and a range of antenna options.

Smallest in the line—Aspire Portable Airmail—is an Iridium-based system that supports e-mail with Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerrys or wireless smartphones. Up to 4 concurrent users can be connected to the cabin network distribution set that is integrated with the Iridium unit, and for aircraft that have short legs or are weight conscious, this is a very good selection.

Aspire 100 SC is an Iridium-based system that supports a single channel of voice or data communication. Aspire SC can be scaled up to support fax, and the Aspire 200 IG and 250 HG Inmarsat-based products provide high-speed Inter­net connectivity for laptops and even videoconferencing.

EMS also provides an Android-based handset that has a noise-canceling microphone, is compatible with Bluetooth headsets, and can even be loaded with third-party applications. EMS also provides routers, data servers, handsets, network distribution units and high-speed data units for high quality voice and data for either Swift­Broadband or Iridium.

Ease of scaling up and increasing capability is at the core of the EMS design, so moving from Iridium to Inmarsat only requires replacing the transceiver and amplifier. Aspire's Iridium components which include the cabin services unit, offer 1 or 2 channels of Iridium service when installed with an Iridium antenna—and since the Iridium cabin services unit equipment has the same form factor as the Inmarsat system, the upgrade path is ready to go!

Thrane & Thrane

The Thrane & Thrane Aviator wireless handset includes a noise cancellation system and echo cancellation system, as well as automatic power-up and power-down.

Latest Thrane & Thrane offering for corporate aviation is the Aviator line—a complete system from antenna to cabin systems, including options for wireless cabin system operations. Aviator 200 is a light­weight solution for smaller cabin aircraft that supports SwiftBroad­band service for e-mail and phone service. In the cabin, Aviator 200 provides Wi-Fi connectivity for laptops, tablets and smartphones, and the company has STCs for the King Air 200, Citation 500, 525/525A, 550, S550, 552, 560 and 560XL.

Thrane & Thrane has recently introduced the Aviator wireless handset which has several innovations for the airborne office environment including noise and echo cancellation systems and automatic power-up and power-down. It has a headset connection (3.5-mm jack connector) and has the form factor you would expect for a modern cell phone.

Aviator 300 and 350 are compact designs for any size aircraft that provide voice, data and video streaming. This system uses a lightweight low drag installation for either tail or top fuselage mounting. It also offers both wireless and dedicated Ethernet style connections to the main router. Standard features include the SwiftBroadband channel providing a symmetrical "always on" data connection up to 332 kbps for IGA and 432 kbps for high-gain antenna (HGA) with the Aviator 350.

Aviator 700 is Thrane & Thrane's "complete solution," providing access to Inmarsat Aero H+ and Swift­Broadband services. The Aviator 700 satellite data unit connects up to 6 handsets (standard or wireless), including two 2-wire connections for fax machines and secure connections directly to laptop PCs or a router/server. This unit also has a built-in wireless access point for easy connection of laptops, smartphones or VoIP handsets.

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