ARINC Direct this summer is planning to begin delivery of its new Xplore device, a portable unit that is designed to bring ACARS services typically found only on large business jets and airliners to a range of aircraft.

The Xplore unit combines four capabilities in a portable box – ACARS messaging services, SMS and instant messaging, voice services and BlackBerry e-mail. The device can be attached by Velcro or thumb screws to a panel mount.

Incorporating Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Xplore can provide access to ARINC’s ACARS services. ACARS, or Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, transmits a range of flight planning, flight, aircraft performance, weather and other data between the aircraft and ground. The system typically relies on VHF, while the Xplore device will use the Iridium or Inmarsat satellite networks.

ACARS capabilities can cost anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million to add into a flight management system, making it appealing to larger business jets and airliners, says Bob Richards, senior director of ARINC Direct.

But Xplore will be priced at about $25,000 for the unit and then about $5,000 for installation costs, making it much more attractive for a spectrum of midsize and light jets and turboprops. Richards says he expects the unit to significantly expand its ACARS services market. ARINC has not yet priced the subscription rates for the services for Xplore users.

Also, using an iPad application, the device can provide VoIP voice services to the cockpit and cabin. E-mail capability is limited to BlackBerry because it displays text only.

The unit is in final testing stages, and Richards says he expects to begin taking orders for Xplore during the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in late July. Deliveries would follow in August. ARINC has partnered with Clarus LLC, which is producing the hardware for Xplore.