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Inflight entertainment

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The journey should be as rewarding as the destination, and there are companies offering the best options for enroute relaxation.


By Jake Carpenter
Contributing Writer

Astronics’ Avenir offers passengers fully customizable control over the system with any of their personal electronic devices (PEDs). Passengers can view huge libraries of entertainment and streaming content on in-seat screens, touchscreens, large screens, or their own PEDs.

Business aviation inflight entertainment (IFE) systems have undergone a revolutionary transformation. Originally, IFE was highly rudimentary, and largely comprised reading materials.

Airline passengers were also able to view a limited selection of films on shared screens, often at uncomfortable angles. Subsequently, individual seat-back screens appeared, along with high-definition displays which enabled passengers to enjoy movies and television shows with an unprecedented level of clarity and depth.

The introduction of satellite-based Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi made IFE faster and more reliable. Passengers now have rapid and uninterrupted access to an immense world of entertainment. Currently, with the ability to use their own personal electronic devices (PEDs), travelers can now choose from continually updated catalogs of movies, television shows, and music. Passengers can simply connect to their usual accounts (eg, Netflix, Hulu, or Spotify) on the aircraft and watch whatever they prefer.

Here, we present 4 of the most innovative companies providing state-of-the-art IFE products for business aviation today – Astronics, Anuvu, Collins Aerospace, and Lufthansa Technik.

Astronics

Astronics’ Avenir offers native 4K video distribution via a high-bandwidth Ethernet network system. Passengers are provided with fully customizable control over the system with their PEDs. Passengers can also control key aspects of their cabin experience – lighting, temperature, humidity, shades, seats, and beds.

Astronics’ AVOD (audio video on-demand) system, in partnership with IdeaNova Technologies, provides business passengers with a huge catalog of full HD movies from more than 20 major studios. Passengers can view their content on in-seat screens, large screens, or their own PEDs. Moreover, passengers can enjoy IFE in their preferred language due to AVOD’s robust multilingual support.

Avenir’s moving map solution, SkyShow, through a partnership with Flight Path 3D, enables passengers to explore the world in 3D. It offers a touchscreen interface, selectable map views, high-resolution maps, full-HD quality, a 3D interactive Earth globe map, and point-of-interest displays. It is also available in multiple languages. Avenir also offers business passengers full integration with major video game consoles.

In cooperation with LG Display, Astronics has also introduced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology to IFE systems for business aircraft. 4K Ultra HD OLED displays are provided in sizes from 42 to 77 inches, as well as corresponding touchscreen displays sized from 3.5 to 15.6 inches. All Astronics displays and touchscreens are equipped with smart processing technology that enables local running of applications, such as AVOD and SkyShow.

Avenir and related products are currently installed on numerous aircraft, including various Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, and Gulfstream types.

Lufthansa Technik’s nice IFE suite offers seamless streaming content in 4K/High Dynamic Range (HDR) on any passenger PED. Passengers can also set a wide range of alerts and permissions to, for example, receive messages from the flight crew during streaming.

Anuvu

Anuvu provides business passengers with a  diverse selection of movies, TV, audio, and original content. Annually, Anuvu licenses more than 4000 movies, and supports a broad technological ecosystem with content compatibility across 58 different devices/systems in more than 20 language variations, facilitated by partnerships with more than 730 content providers.

Anuvu also has a pronounced focus on providing increased diversity of content. Estibaliz Asiain, senior vice president of media and content at Anuvu, explains, “Central to Anuvu’s strategy is its commitment to cultural understanding and personalization, achieved through the establishment of extensive teams in key global locations.

This local presence enables Anuvu to gain deep insights into the cultures and preferences of diverse passenger demographics, allowing for the curation of tailored content that resonates on a personal level.”

In addition, Anuvu’s partnerships with Mindvalley, TheSoul Publishing, and WaterBear introduce wellness and sustainability-focused programming.

Anuvu also employs advanced data-driven strategies that consider cultural nuances and interests. Asiain adds, “We believe data is a fundamental factor to content curation. Through our partnership with Parrot Analytics and our own data analysis platform, called Pulse, we have extensive access to data on what content passengers are consuming on the ground, and also about their viewing habits during flights.” She concludes, “This enables us to tailor content packages to suit various demographics.”

The company also produces original content. For example, Anuvu organized an interview with popular Hong Kong actor Louis Koo, for customer airline Cathay Pacific, to be featured exclusively on the air carrier’s fleet. Anuvu’s IFE platform is currently installed on more than 1100 aircraft globally.

Collins Aerospace’s Airshow moving maps provides passengers with brilliant 3D graphics and fine-grained details of both the progress of their flight and the world around them during travel. Passengers can specify what information they want displayed and when, and can view their flight from multiple perspectives, including from the pilot’s head-up display (HUD).

Collins Aerospace

Collins Aerospace’s Venue cabin management system includes Stage on Demand, the Tailwind 500 satellite TV system, and Airshow moving maps. Venue is currently the forward fit OEM cabin solution for numerous business aircraft, including Bombardier Global 5500/6500 and Dassault Falcon jets.

Stage on Demand is a streaming service that brings Hollywood movies and TV shows to passengers’ monitors and mobile devices. Content is updated continually.

“With more than 700 movies and television shows already available, new content is added monthly to the Stage on Demand library to ensure subscribers have an ample and fresh selection of entertainment to choose from,” states Marc Ayala, Collins Aerospace senior director of sales, business and regional aviation.

The Tailwind 500 satellite TV system provides passengers with direct broadcast satellite television and real-time access to more than 1000 channels. The system features broad multi-regional coverage, and connects to virtually any cabin management system. Tailwind 500 satellite TV is widely available. It’s an option on Gulfstream forward fit platforms, and is available via the Collins dealer network.

Finally, Airshow moving maps provides passengers with 3D graphics and fine-grained geographical details of the world around them during travel. With its Landsat 7 Mapset, the system portrays global satellite imagery at 30 meters per pixel with terrain data, plus high-focus maps at 3.75 meters per pixel. Passengers can also view flights as if they were wearing the pilot’s head-up display (HUD).

IFE functionalities can be controlled by passengers through their own PEDs with the Venue CabinCommand app. Indeed, such integration constitutes a central trend of IFEs in business aviation. This is supported by Collins Aerospace Marketing Manager, Inflight Connectivity Solutions Nicole Grainger. “We have seen a massive change over the past 10 years within the IFE and aircraft cabin industry due to the proliferation of PEDs,” she remarks.

In addition to its robust entertainment functionality, Lufthansa Technik’s niceview mobile app allows passengers to control key aspects of the cabin experience from any of their PEDs. Passengers can, for example, communicate with the flight crew, make special food and drink orders, or adjust cabin lighting, temperature, and humidity.

Lufthansa Technik

Lufthansa Technik’s system, called nice, provides a dynamic IFE experience for business passengers. The platform uses Ethernet data distribution as its backbone, which ensures system reliability.

Nice offers 4K/HDR distribution. Passengers are given control over their cabin environment, including lighting, air conditioning, and entertainment. It also provides seamless content streaming to PEDs.

Nice also has a selection of more than 300 movies and 300-plus television shows, complemented by an extensive audio program – although this content is currently pre-stored on the aircraft.

“We are currently developing a new iteration of nice that is planned to enter the market in 2025,” notes Lufthansa Technik Spokesperson Michael Lagemann. “It will feature a portal enabling configuration changes and data transmissions from the ground in an ‘update over the air’ manner.”

The hardware of nice complements the latest advancements in display technology, including large 4K displays. Nice also brings the first genuine Hi-Fi audio system designed specifically for IFE, which supplies an ultra-flat frequency response that matches the performance of high-end consumer audio systems. The inclusion of virtual surround sound technology also enhances the audio experience of movies and television series.

The niceview Mobile app offers full integration with PEDs across iOS and Android platforms. It allows passengers to make special food and drink orders, adjust cabin settings, and communicate with the flight crew. Voice control technology further enhances this personalized experience.

Nice is line fit to many popular business jet models, including the Embraer Phenom 100EX and the Pilatus PC-24. Lufthansa Technik reports that more than 1500 shipsets of nice are currently implemented.

The path ahead

Originally comprising books, periodicals, and a limited selection of films viewed on a shared screen, IFE has experienced a truly remarkable transformation. Business travelers now experience a powerful fusion of comfort and entertainment, making the aircraft into an extension of their own personalized digital space.

As the evolution of IFE has demonstrated, any entertainment technology developed on the ground can be implemented productively in the air. It is clear that, as IFE continues to develop, business passengers can look forward to flights that are not only about the destination, but also about thoroughly enjoying a journey filled with increasingly remarkable innovative and personalized entertainment experiences.