Sometimes it's the simple things that make one realize how quickly technology is morphing our environment. Now there are applications aplenty for business aircraft.
Want to dim the lights? Cool off? Angle that seat back? Change the DVD? Use an app — cabin management system (CMS) makers have them in spades. Need to charter a jet tonight? There's an app for that, too, thanks to London-based Air Charter, which recently announced it has developed an iPhone app for business and leisure travelers interested in flying by private jet.
The new app provides fingertip access to thousands of aircraft worldwide and can be downloaded by searching for “Air Partner” or “private jets” in Apple's iTunes Store. Users can obtain an estimated price based on their chosen one-way or return routing, the number of passengers and travel dates. Search results also display the flight time, plus images and details about the aircraft offered. A GPS airport search facility and a favorite airport save function are optional. The app is free to download and is available in seven key languages.
Speaking of things Apple, at least one air carrier will begin offering iPads to passengers as part of its inflight entertainment (IFE) service. Many cabin electronics OEMs already have or soon will make their IFE offerings as Android-, Apple-, Linux- and Windows-savvy as possible for passengers unwilling to give up their reliance on electronic appendages for the duration of the flight. For this reason, personal electronic devices may hold an edge on seatback IFE. Some of the latest computer games, for example, require “gesture” commands, such as tilting the device, which requires the unit to be equipped with accelerometers and inclinometers — something not typically found in seatback IFE hardware.
Samsung's 10-in. Galaxy Tab or similar tablet computers will be the first to seriously threaten Apple's iPad dominance in the passenger cabin, say industry observers. As evidence,chose to replace its current flock of personal entertainment devices (PEDs) in premium cabins on transatlantic and some international flights with 6,000 new Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets.
Passengers today expect an aircraft cabin system that is on par or better than the digital systems they have in their homes and offices. The industry highlights that follow, as well as the accompanying product and service listings, indicate that the OEMs understand this very well indeed.
OEMS & Apps Aerial View Systems
This Southern California maker of miniature, lightweight passenger entertainment and crew cameras for observation of gear, blown tires, hot brakes, flaps/slats, APU, ice, FOD, etc. has introduced a line of high-definition “SuperVision” cameras designed to be installed on top of the tail, in the winglet, in the nose gear trailing-link door or through the fuselage.
London-based charter provider Air Partner now offers what it calls the first multilingual real-time iPhone app for private jet availability worldwide. “With the need to be ever more flexible and for the private jet booking process to be easier, we felt that we needed to develop an app in order to make our service more accessible on the move,” says spokeswoman Joanna Crawford.
As previously mentioned, the app provides price estimates based on one-way or roundtrip flights, the number of passengers and travel dates. Customers can also get flight times, images and aircraft details. The app uses live data to give users an approximate private jet cost for their chosen route.
The app is free to download and currently is available in seven languages — English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. The language displayed is determined by the settings on a user's iPhone. A choice of 36 currencies is also available in the cost calculator option.
In yet another reminder of how transformative an impact the Iridium satellite service has made in the aviation industry, Aircell's Axxess communications system and Data Interface Unit (DIU) have received approval in SITA's Validation, Assessment & Qualification (VAQ) program. As Future Air Navigation System (FANS) over Iridium (FOI) technology continues to emerge, this qualification is a critical milestone because it validates that Aircell's satcom equipment meets all the performance requirements for operation in a FANS environment.
Meanwhile, Aircell's Axxess has been selected by Gulfstream as standard equipment aboard its new G650. The system provides global voice service and narrowband data capabilities via the Iridium network. Integrated cabin handsets allow passengers and crew to easily place and receive voice calls to or from anywhere in the world. Axxess is currently offered on dozens of models of new aircraft from, , Falcon Jet, Gulfstream, and others.
Two members of Aircell's global dealer network have received separate installation certifications for Aviator 300/350 systems from Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). The new certifications represent the first-ever approvals of SwiftBroadband-based communications systems in that country. Aircell's Aviator-series products, powered by Thrane & Thrane, enable global email, light Internet and voice capabilities via Inmarsat's satellite-based SwiftBroadband service.
And beginning in 2012, Cessna will offer the Aviator 300 system as an option on new Citation XLS+, Citation Sovereign and Citation X aircraft. The Aviator 300 will be fully integrated with the Axxess cabin system, enabling passengers and crew to send and receive email with attachments, surf the Web, access a corporate VPN and more, using their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, tablets, electronic flight bags (EFBs) and smartphones. They also can place and receive voice calls using integrated cabin handsets.
Cessna will offer Aircell's Gogo Biz high-speed Internet capability as a factory option for the Citation CJ4 beginning in first quarter 2012. Gogo Biz provides passengers and flight crews with high-speed Internet capabilities above 10,000 ft. in the continental U.S. and portions of Alaska, using their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, tablets, EFBs, smartphones and other mobile devices. In addition, the CJ4 already includes global Iridium voice capabilities from Aircell as standard equipment. With integrated cabin handsets, passengers and crews can place and receive voice calls to or from anywhere in the world and use call waiting, call forwarding and conference calling features.
Aircraft Cabin Systems
Aircraft Cabin Systems' latest model LCD designed specifically for aircraft use is a 65-in. monitor, available with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The monitor displays Blu-ray 1080p discs via an HDMI input.
ARINC Direct, ARINC's business aviation-centric service, has launched a new high-speed Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service for business aircraft using Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband. The new service carries accelerated data and VoIP traffic together without a conflict, a capability that ARINC says is unique.
ARINC installed a complete hardware infrastructure earlier this year to host the new VoIP service at its Annapolis, Md., headquarters. The company became an Inmarsat Distribution Partner in 2010. The new VoIP service is available immediately to properly equipped ARINC Direct customers.
SwiftBroadband provides streaming connectivity in classes up to 432 Kbps for high-speed data, and supports voice communications, EFB applications, passenger telephony, VoIP, text messaging, email, Internet, intranet, instant messaging and secure VPN access.
Meanwhile, ARINC Direct has added Hot Spot Tracking capability to its SwiftBroadband Internet service for corporate and charter jets. The new feature enables real-time tracking of inflight Internet usage, as well as real-time purchase of Internet connectivity in flight.
The new ARINC offering promises to simplify cost allocation among corporate departments or among multiple charter customers using today's popular “hot spot” connectivity in business aircraft cabins.
No onboard technology is required to activate Hot Spot Tracking, which is implemented in software on the ground. The feature is available to customers of ARINC Direct SwiftBroadband Internet service. The inflight Internet purchase capability allows onboard users to buy megabyte “blocks” of Internet connectivity using a credit card. ARINC technology on the ground provides real-time credit card verification, and the user sees an on-screen display that keeps track of account usage during the flight.
The system is designed to permit flexible access, initially with a credit card purchase, and in the future by using employee IDs, departmental credentials or other customized solutions. An introductory screen appears on the user's computer or device to handle the log-in process.
It should come as no surprise that there is now an app for ARINC. The company's new iPad application gives pilots streamlined access to flight plans, weather information, charts and NOTAMs through the ARINC Direct portal. It updates and stores all flight-relevant information automatically each time a pilot logs on.
“Our new cockpit app is built on the actual feedback we received from pilots before and during our three-month beta-testing period,” stated Bob Hanley, ARINC vice president, Business Aviation Solutions. “After 2,000 downloads, the positive reception for this app has been tremendous.”
ARINC's app enables fast access to flight-plan packages and trip records by city pair, tail number and departure date. Users can view D-ATIS, METARs, TAFs, NOTAMs and winds aloft for departure, arrival and alternate airports. Airport diagrams, takeoff minimums, instrument approach plates, DPs and STARs are displayed from local storage. Flight plans can be re-computed and new fax packages generated for current conditions. Pilots can update flight plans using the iPad touchscreen and email uploads using “sign and send” technology available with SwiftBroadband connectivity.
A number of corporate and owner-pilot operators have commented favorably on the new ARINC app. Jerry Sudimick ofCorporate Air Transport commented, “The app so far has been a home run, and it has become one of my primary apps in flight. The nice thing is having the weather info right there with the flight plan info, internally.”
ARINC's next release of the app will feature background processing and downloading for streamlined operation, as well as access to D-ATIS,charts and the ARINC Direct Feedback page. The design of the app includes a full-function iPad display with a scrolling searchable flight list on the left and a scrolling searchable flight information library on the right.
ARINC Direct also has launched a program to assist business jet operators in obtaining FANS certification for their aircraft and aircrews. FANS provides two-way communications between flight crews and air traffic control using Data Link, which minimizes communications errors and maximizes operational efficiency. FANS provides for requesting and issuing flight clearances over Data Link and provides ATC with highly accurate aircraft position data. This helps to relieve frequently congested VHF and HF radio frequencies, while improving the speed and accuracy of communications. ARINC sent the first successful FANS message to its first airline customer more than 10 years ago, but FANS service is still relatively new in business aviation.
The new service assists customers in obtaining and organizing all the documents required for FANS certification in the form of a Letter of Authorization (LOA) from the governing regulatory agency. As a part of the service, ARINC Direct will also monitor the process of regulatory approval and support customers as needed.
The company also has begun construction of a FANS simulator and training facility co-located with its Operational Control Center in Annapolis. ARINC will build the flight deck simulation technology as well as the controller workstation for full end-to-end training capability. The facility is scheduled to open in early 2012.
ASiQ, the Australian developers of the patented SafeCell mobile phone system, have come up with an iPad Bluetooth app that it says can overcome problems associated with the use of Wi-Fi in aircraft cockpits. Recently, Wi-Fi made news when it reportedly blanked out the cockpit displays on aduring testing. This resulted in suspending Wi-Fi installations. It obviously has become a concern for airline and business aircraft operators wanting to use iPads in the cockpit for crew communications, as part of their use of EFBs.
Ron Chapman, ASiQ's CEO, said “the issue for Wi-Fi is that under certification testing, in order to provide an acceptable safety margin, wireless transmitters are powered up to five times their maximum power. In the case of Wi-Fi, this turns a 1,000-milliwatt transmitter into a 5,000-milliwatt transmitter.
An Intel aircraft safety study on Bluetooth released in 2000 (www.scribd.com/doc/7156308/Aircraft-Safety-Report-for-Bluetooth) describes testing in which Bluetooth was powered up to 500 times its normal power, and at a distance of only 10 cm it was still below the aircraft standards.
“So,” Chapman said, “it is fairly safe to assume that Bluetooth at five times its normal power should not be an issue at all.”
Chapman continued, “It was during the development of our new iPhone app for corporate jets that we realized we could deliver a similar data service on the iPad. What makes it really exciting is that our iPhone Bluetooth proprietary software currently allows up to three Apple devices to communicate simultaneously, which means that both pilots and the head of the cabin crew could all have access. Combine this with our satellite/radio controller and message distribution software, and you now have a very-low-cost mobile solution that airlines can implement for crew data communications”
ASiQ previously announced the release of an Android version of its SafeCell inflight mobile phone for corporate jets.
Blue Sky Network
La Jolla, Calif.-based satellite tracking and communications provider Blue Sky Network recently introduced SkyRouter 2. The interface for this Web portal's detailed global mapping system allows administrators to more easily view, track and communicate with every aircraft, vehicle, ship and person in their organization.
The new features build upon Blue Sky Network's global Web portal that supports remote monitoring of globally dispersed and critical assets. Users can track assets, communicate via simple text messaging, and receive and update trip plans.
Another new feature for SkyRouter 2 is “Geo-Fencing,” which administrators can use to create geo-fences in SkyRouter 2 for any asset. Notifications can occur every time a vehicle leaves or enters any specific geo-fence. SkyRouter 2 enables two means of creating custom geo-fences: circular (radiating out from a point) or polygons.
Custom Control Concepts
Kent, Wash.-based Custom Control Concepts (CCC) has teamed with L-3 Platform Integration Division (PID) on a-8 head-of-state completion project at L-3's facility in Waco, Texas. This is PID and CCC's second collaboration and will likely lead to others.
CCC's cabin management and entertainment systems have found homes in over 120 aircraft ranging fromand Boeing jets to Gulfstreams and helicopters. The company equips the jumbo with its HD Inflight Entertainment and Cabin Management Systems (IFE/CMS); it specializes in integrating its systems with existing and third-party components, such as cameras, satellite TV, humidification and temperature control, and XM Radio, including all software design, electrical and mechanical engineering, machining, assembly, finishing and testing in-house.
Longtime digEcor customer Pacific Blue has again upgraded its fleet of digEplayer semi-embedded portable entertainment units. More than doubling the number of devices in service, the New Zealand-based carrier will fly digEplayer L7s from Christchurch and Auckland to Australia and some Pacific Islands.
Previously unannounced, parent companyhas been flying the digEplayer XT in first class as a free amenity since late last year. Designed for use in flight, digEplayer products are hard-drive-based devices that provide a variety of movies, TV shows, music videos, music, games and books viewed on 7- to 10-in. screens.
Duncan Aviation recently received Service Mark approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its iCabin integrated iPad app for wireless control of cabin systems in a Dassault Falcon 900, utilizing the app, an Aircell CTR Wi-Fi source and an interface unit to communicate instructions to theMH CMS.
This fully customized iPad cabin control interface does not impact any existing functionality or tie up system resources. The app connects an iPad to an aircraft's CMS, providing passengers with a remote control for sound, video and cabin lighting. It is available for aircraft equipped with approved Wi-Fi sources. A wireless cabin control application for Android devices also is being tested.
Meanwhile, Duncan, no stranger to the mysteries of cabin electronics, addresses common issues and answers questions about Wi-Fi installations for business aircraft in “Making Sense of Wi-Fi: An Operator's Guide to Aircraft Internet Options.” The guide explores the various topics operators face when selecting Wi-Fi for business aircraft, and includes a comparison of the major service providers and main equipment options for business aircraft, as well as coverage maps and a system comparison chart. To download a copy, visit www.DuncanAviation.aero/fieldguides.
San Diego-based inflight entertainment pioneer e.Digital announced its 17th Flash-R portfolio-related licensing and settlement agreement in September. The company's portfolio of flash memory-related patents, found in many portable consumer electronic products, have shaped the portable inflight entertainment systems found on more than 30 airlines. The company's own eVU portable Flash player, introduced in 2006, boasts a 20-hr. battery life.
EMS Technologies Inc., for which Honeywell paid approximately $491 million in August, is known for its mobile networking, rugged mobile computers and satellite communications. Meanwhile, its EMS Aviation subdivision is well-known for its terminals, antennas, in-cabin network devices, rugged data storage and surveillance applications predominantly for use on aircraft.
The purchase enhances Honeywell's existing capabilities in rugged mobile computing technologies within its Automation and Control Solutions business and satcom offerings within its aerospace lines. EMS's Global Resource Management division provides mobile computing products and services for use in transportation, logistics and workforce management settings as well as secure satellite-based asset tracking and messaging technology for search and rescue, warehousing and field force automation environments. This looks to be a promising combination.
EMS Aviation says it soon will introduce the first passenger handset for business aviation based on the Android mobile operating system.
Flight Display Systems
In the past, waiting months to troubleshoot a broken light switch or a DVD player on the fritz or other similar cabin electronics problems would have to be diagnosed at the aircraft's next visit to the avionics shop. Passengers were forced to use or eschew the faulty equipment for weeks or even months.
The people at Flight Display Systems figured that there had to be a better way. So the company has developed and recently introduced the new Cloud CMS Support Software to give Flight Display Systems customers virtual hands-on assistance immediately and anywhere in the world.
“Our staff of engineers can access the aircraft using any PC laptop with a Wi-Fi or 3G connection,” said David Gray, president of Flight Display Systems. “With the Cloud CMS Support Software, we can troubleshoot, upgrade or modify all aspects of the cabin management system. This is truly an industry first.”
The launch aircraft for “operator lifeline” is a Gulfstream GIV operated by Gulf Coast Aviation in Houston, fitted with a complete CMS by Flight Display Systems. The Cloud CMS Support Software is available, free of charge, to all new customers of the Select Aircraft Cabin Management System (Select CMS) from Flight Display Systems.
Meanwhile, in an effort to accommodate the tech-savvy passenger who is attached to their iPad but has to put up with juggling it on a food tray or balancing it on their lap during flight, Flight Display's engineers developed the iPad Arm Mount. According to Gray, the new hardware replaces outdated LCD monitors on any aircraft.
“Now business jet operators don't have to put up with whatever legacy LCD monitors the airplane was originally fitted with. They simply remove the existing LCD and arm mount, dock the new iPad Arm Mount, adjust the viewing angle to whatever is comfortable — up to 15 deg. in portrait or landscape modes — then sit back and relax. And their iPad charges as they go,” added Gray.
“That means our iPad Arm Mount is a drop-in replacement. You can swap out your old displays with new iPad Arm Mounts in under 10 sec. — literally anyone can do it. No waiting for complicated and irreversible wiring changes. “We're confident that there's nothing like that on the market right now,” said Gray.
Arm mount base receptacles are standard on most private aircraft produced between 1996 and 2011, including all models of Gulfstream, Global Express, Citation, Falcon, Hawker Beechcraft andaircraft. Jet owners can purchase the $2,533 iPad Arm Mount by contacting their local avionics dealer. It's available in both black and almond text color to match standard aircraft interiors, and comes with a two-year warranty. Tall and long versions of the iPad Arm Mount also are available.
And there's an Android software app for use with Select CMS. The 7-in. Android-powered tablet controls all cabin functions, such as lighting, window shades, Blu-ray player, movie library and the Flight Display Moving Map. The wireless system operates via Bluetooth for full control anywhere inside the aircraft cabin. The software is available for all Select CMS customers.
The company also has been busy with orders for its new high-definition-optimized Select CMS for a Boeing BBJ, VIP B757, Gulfstream GV and GIV, Hawker 800 and a Citation Bravo..
Interiors – Cabin Electronic Systems
Goodrich's inflight entertainment and cabin management systems are now iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch compatible to control cabin lighting, temperature and entertainment equipment. The company's cabin system controls use Apple devices with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities to control cabin components such as electronics, seats and LED lights.
The Goodrich Apple control app is loaded onto a device that interfaces with the CMS through a wireless access point to the control network. The app can be tailored for each aircraft based on the customer's or designer's wishes, similar to Goodrich's touch screen customized control configurations. Command and control of cabin lighting, seating, entertainment and the overall environment can be accomplished through these custom-made apps. This innovation is capable of utilizing the aircraft's existing wireless access points.
Heads Up Technologies
The Lumin CMS, developed by Cessna in partnership with Dallas-based Heads Up Technologies, features touch screens designed to blend into the cabin interior.
Lumin incorporates a scalable fiber-optic backbone, distributed processing, wireless, and digital content management technologies. Passengers use a touch screen to control cabin lighting, window shades, temperature, audio (digital media, MP3/iPhone), video (digital, Blu-ray) and an individual interactive moving map. The basic system includes the moving maps and USB/device inputs.
Options such as satellite radio, Blu-ray players, external cameras or high-speed Internet browsing can easily be added. The system incorporates digital audio libraries, Internet, seat-to-seat texting and cabin control functions.
Lumin technology powers the Clairity cabin technology system, which is standard on the new Cessna Citation Ten and optional on the new Cessna Citation M2. The Citation M2 provides a wireless app user interface, which can be accessed through smartphones and tablets.
Previously, Heads Up launched Premiere, a new IFE system designed specifically for small to midsize cabins. That system supports up to four independent passenger controls, while the Executive version provides capacity for eight. Passengers can select between audio and video sources, such as Blu-ray players, gaming equipment, satellite radio, MP3's and more. The passenger control panel has an integrated headphone jack and can be plated to match existing interiors. All monitors are high definition and support widescreen formats. Satellite radio is an option, and an auxiliary panel device provides for other media, such as gaming equipment and other personal audio/video entertainment devices.
Ovation Select, Honeywell's all-digital cabin management system, connects high-speed satellite communications with the latest consumer electronics, enabling passengers to bring aboard their personal devices and plug them in for inflight use. The system's architecture and Ethernet backbone facilitates end-to-end self-diagnostic and troubleshooting capability, and is scalable from general aviation aircraft up to and including air transport category business aircraft.
Controlling the total cabin environment is accomplished through enhanced icon-based, touch-screen interfaces that offer a similar look and feel, whether it's a full-size monitor, drink-rail-mounted personal control unit, wireless handheld remote, or personal iPad or iPod.
Ovation Select can be customized with unique user interface graphics and languages, including a 3-D model of an operator's aircraft rendered inside the JetMap HD moving map, which also features high-definition 3-D moving maps with worldwide 15-meter satellite imagery resolution. Users can view their flight path from up to 18 different perspectives, such as the view from the cockpit, passenger window or from an aerial surround view of their jet. Its zoom capabilities can deliver street-level details or the entire globe.
Established in April 2011, IDAIR is a joint venture ofAG and Panasonic Avionics Corp. The company specializes in the development, manufacture and sale of IFE and CMS for narrowbody and widebody VIP aircraft.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, the joint venture offers new systems based on a combination of existing technologies already found in Panasonic's X Series commercial IFE system, Panasonic's Global Communications Suite (eXconnect and eXphone) and a high-definition CMS/IFE system developed byTechnik's Innovation business unit, which it has branded “nice.”
Targeted at VIP transport-type aircraft, IDAIR draws from its parents' expertise in digital distribution, high-definition media playback, iPod and iPhone controls, remote maintenance, high-speed connectivity, ipTV, media and game libraries, and many more. The system incorporates an animated graphical user interface (GUI) with an integrated scroll wheel and a touch screen. The nice UI also offers a remote for iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads. The application is available for download at the iTune Store.
In October, IDAIR revealed a set of “nice” additions, including readiness for streaming of Hollywood studio approved DRM-protected HD video to each seat location; animated graphics; 3-D moving maps; a hybrid touch-screen/scroll-wheel control system; fewer, smaller and lighter LRUs; increasing network bandwidth with Gigabit Ethernet to each seat; integration with consumer PEDs; and remote system access for product support.
Installations of the “nice” have been made on Bombardier's Challenger 300, 605, and Global XRS/5000; Boeing Business Jets; and Airbus Corporate Jets. More than 200 “nice” systems have been delivered to Bombardier.
Commercial operators looking to increase their revenue through onboard sales of products or services might want to consider Isle of Wight-based IFL, which designs and manufactures cabin electronics, but also has developed a near field computing (NFC) device that tackles the challenge of making secure payments in flight.
The device includes a chip and pin reader to increase payment options. Its three main uses are for payments, data transfer/exchange and wireless connections. Currently, “contactless” technology allows people to make low value transactions without a PIN. Technology is being developed to allow (with the use of security) people to make larger purchases and download purchases such as music.
IFPL says NFC is the way future passengers are likely to pay for items, and operators would be able to simply add the company's NFC system without requiring the complexity of a chip and pin system.
American Airlines has renewed its long-term relationship with the IMS Co. as the systems integrator for the carrier's Samsung Galaxy Tab devices. The ultra-thin tablet replaces the now five-year-old workhorse PED that American and IMS launched as the inflight entertainment industry's first “semi-embedded” PED.
In choosing to deploy 6,000 new Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets to replace the current PEDs in premium cabins on transatlantic and some other international flights, American tapped the Southern California-based IFE provider to repurpose and integrate one of the world's thinnest large-screen tablets into the inflight environment.
IMS' focus in repurposing the Galaxy Tab for inflight entertainment was on the Android operating system. Due to the growing importance of the operating systems that support PEDs, IMS has moved toward platform integration rather than device integration as the basis for its handheld service offerings.
Montreal-based Innotech Aviation and Esoteric's SkyPad app, now available free for download from Apple's iTunes Store, allows Innotech's I-Ku broadband system users to control the SkyPad IFE system with their personal iPads. Previously, they had to use custom-configured iPads with the SkyPad system installed. Now, all a user needs to do is download the SkyPad app.
Esoteric's SkyPad system combines audio/video compression and distribution technology with cloud computing. It is a wireless cabin entertainment and management system integrated with the Apple iPad and Ku-band Internet and can be installed as a stand-alone media system on any aircraft or integrated with any current high-speed satellite system and wireless router. Esoteric says its-certified system represents a drastic reduction in weight, power consumption and installation time.
For its part, Innotech received multiple STC approvals from the FAA for installation of its I-Ku Airborne High-Speed Internet System on the Bombardier Global Express;(EASA) approval is expected shortly. The system combines Innotech proprietary software and technology with a ViaSat terminal and the company's worldwide Yonder network service.
The I-Ku system incorporates the ViaSat VMT-1500 airborne high-speed Internet terminal and delivers data and voice connections.
The Innotech proprietary software applications facilitate simultaneous access to high-speed Internet, VoIP, voice Wi-Fi and other office-in-the-sky applications. Simultaneous onboard connection can be made with any wireless devices, such as laptops, BlackBerrys, iPhones and iPads.
Redmond, Wash.-based Innovative Advantage has delivered 50 of its AVDS systems, which provide high-definition video for business and VIP aircraft with fiber-optic switching around the aircraft cabin. The system supports HD-SDI, DVI-D, Component, Composite and VGA signals, as well as digital audio, Dolby Digital, DTS pass-through and analog audio. In addition, Gigabit Ethernet is available around the network.
AVDS's distributed network provides quality video by using a fault-tolerant network. Fiber-optic connections mean less wiring, less weight and no compression artifacts or distracting “lip sync” issues.
International Communication Group
Talon Air Maintenance Services, International Communications Group's Farmingdale, N.Y.-based lead dealer, has completed the first installation of an ICG SB-200 Sora Lite advanced Inmarsat high-speed data and voice satellite communications system on a Cessna Model 650 jet.
The stand-alone system replaced a Flitephone VI unit with a cabin wireless handset, a cockpit jet phone and RJ45 network 10 base T jacks to provide background IP service supporting 200 Kbps of Internet connectivity and voice communication to both the cabin and the cockpit. Cobham's SDU-7310 Satellite Data Unit, HLD-7260 combined high-power amplifier/low noise amplifier/diplexer and low-gain Inmarsat antenna completed the package.
Two new Android-based IFE distribution systems are now available from Irvine, Calif.-based InTheAirNet (ITAN).
The ITAN SDU (seat display unit), part of the company's a-series, enables passengers to use a large seat display to play their own content from PEDs, eliminating armrest units. Passengers can plug in their PEDs to play their own media content or connect to the Internet on broadband flights. The SDU system's built-in storage and Android architecture allows programs to be synchronized to an aircraft's flight stages, as well as edited for specific destinations, without the need for a separate server.
ITAN's other new a-series system is the ITAN Arm. Also based on an Android platform, it provides IFE, information and power to the passengers' PEDs.
The company also has unveiled two new inflight map developments based on Android. The Mapp App, which users download to their PEDs, allows passengers to access an aircraft's map programs via the cabin's wired or wireless distribution system. Mapp App features high-resolution maps, with the option of adding higher-resolution views of key cities. The program's digital satellite imagery enables views 40 mi. across, anywhere around the world, and city views 4 mi. across. The application also can be customized for destination information and branding graphics, provides auto scripting and up to 1 K of data.
The other new launch is Mapp Wapp, a new Android-based system for wirelessly distributing ITAN's map product to passengers' PEDs. Mapp Wapp is a stand-alone delivery system especially designed to replace older systems. The system also can store movies, audio and other Android apps for distribution through the new a-series Arm system. The app, which passengers can reuse on later flights once downloaded, also can be customized for destination information and branding graphics.
Also recently introduced is InTheAirNet's abSeries platform for business aircraft — a new inflight entertainment and seat power connection for business aircraft with nine to 60 passengers.
The system consists of a 7-in. master control, usually located in the galley or crew area; a Distribution/Power Module in the cabin that supports nine passengers (additional passengers or zones may be added as desired); an Aircraft Interface Module for adding a passenger map; and an optional Aircraft Control Module for electronic control of aircraft lights, temperature and shades. All features can be operated with an app on the passenger's smart device.
This system allows passengers to play their PED content on large, high-resolution cabin displays, watch previously stored onboard content and a moving passenger map, or connect to the Internet.
Eclipse, a Paris-based satcom, ACARS and data-link services provisioner has teamed with OnAir, a SITA/Airbus joint venture specializing in SwiftBroadband connectivity, to market OnAir's new airborne connectivity system. Mobile OnAir provides passengers with inflight mobile phone connectivity, as well as mobile data facilitating “office-in-the-sky” applications, via laptops and smartphones.
OnAir and Eclipse are working with industry partners to develop additional STCs for the system. Since OnAir's launch in 2005, it has signed on with air carriers as well as six executive/VIP aircraft. OnAir also has teamed with TriaGnoSys to install the voice, text message, Internet and email services on business aircraft. Germany-based TriaGnoSys has extensive experience providing mobile communications applications.
Panasonic Avionics Corp.
“Sky Hub,” Panasonic's Global Communications Suite, provides passengers with full broadband for the Internet, mobile phone services, high-speed Wi-Fi and data services, VoIP, streaming video and, in Gulf Air's installation, a live satellite TV feed. The carrier is providing live, uninterrupted television services on routes across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Panasonic also has added Ku coverage and capacity over the AsiaSat 5 satellite to support the company's eXConnect, eXPhone and eXTV services. The company's eXConnect provides two-way broadband connectivity supporting a wide range of passenger and crew applications, including Internet access, voice, data, and the ability to monitor and transmit airline operational data in real time at speeds of up to 50 Mbps to the aircraft.
Meanwhile, eXPhone, which is offered in collaboration with AeroMobile's mobile phone technology, allows passengers to use their mobile phones, smartphones or BlackBerrys to call, text, email and browse, and use other applications throughout the flight. With nothing for customers to do except turn on their devices, eXPhone mobile data also work with GSM-enabled tablets and laptops.
The Southern California company's eXTV television network delivers high-quality television programming to passengers during their flight. It provides live, uninterrupted content to aircraft flying all over the world, even over oceans. The service offers several global channels as well as regional channels.
Panasonic's new eXW offering, available as a standalone system or as an enhancement to more traditional Panasonic IFE product, will use a wireless network to enable passengers to access services such as onboard movies, music, news and in-cabin services, all through a personalized portal on their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, tablets, smartphones or other PEDs.
PlaneBill has introduced over a dozen new mobile apps for iPhone/iPad, Windows Mobile and Android platforms targeting aircraft passengers and crew. Apps available for the iOS platform include destination information, flight weather, purchasing with credit cards, onboard meals and duty-free ordering, immigration formalities, onboard lotteries, passenger to crew communication, chats and more.
PlaneBill even developed an app that an Android Smartphone-equipped Muslim can use to find the direction to Mecca for prayer.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Rockwell Collins will soon offer HD virtual surround sound on its second generation dPAVES IFE system. Integrated into dPAVES high-definition media servers, the new virtual surround sound, provided by SRS WOW HD, fully immerses passengers in a theater-like experience that is tunable to any headset. “On the fly” processing allows any media file type to be output with virtual surround sound over headphones, giving passengers a consistent HD entertainment experience.
Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins' new Digital Media Reproducer is a form-fit-function, digital head-end replacement for videotape-based IFE systems. The plug-and-play unit offers a quick solution for updating the 1,600 in-service, first-generation PAVES IFE systems flying today without overhauling the entire system. It will be available in early 2012.
Air Routing International, which Collins acquired in 2010, has been upgraded and re-branded as Ascend Flight Information Solutions. The Houston-based unit's suite of services include flight planning, cabin and maintenance services, as well as Collins' Airshow Network, personalized moving maps, Tailwind satellite TV and content subscription management.
Satcom1 is now Europe's foremost provider of Inmarsat's newly launched SwiftBroadband 200 (SB200) for all aircraft in Europe equipped with this service. SB200 requires lighter hardware with a smaller antenna (and installation costs), making the service ideal for smaller aircraft.
SB200 provides cockpit and passengers simultaneous use of a smartphone and access to email and the Internet with data speeds of up to 200 Kpbs.
In addition to the new SB200 service, Satcom1 also provides innovative flight billing plans. These plans allow clients using satellite services on charter aircraft to be billed directly, without any action from the charter provider.
Satcom Integration, LLC, a new subsidiary partially owned by Satcom Direct, offers turnkey consulting services, products, custom integration and software applications to help customers determine and deploy the best options for fully integrated satellite communications systems in business aviation and other industries. The unit was founded by a group of individuals with decades of combined experience in the satcom field, including experience at Satcom Direct.
Meanwhile, SkyTicket, Satcom Direct's newest app, allows individual passengers to pay directly for Internet usage in flight. SkyTicket can be used by any aircraft operator, including FAR Part 135 charter operators, fractional operators and business aircraft. To use SkyTicket, passengers enter any URL in a computer browser and are re-directed to a log-in page. Those with an existing SkyTicket account can enter the account email address and password to log in or create an account while on the aircraft.
Once logged in, passengers enter their method of payment and pick a package of time or block of usage, determined by the satellite network and the hardware on the aircraft. Passengers receive receipts via email showing the amount charged to their credit card. They also can view their usage amount while logged in and are notified when their package balance is running low. They then can purchase another package if they have not signed up for auto-renewal. If passengers do not use the entire purchased package, they have one year to use the remaining balance.
SkyTicket is secure and PCI compliant. Credit card and payment information is sent directly to the credit card merchant and is not stored in the system. The app should be popular with Part 135 operators or others who want to track Internet usage by individual passengers or departments. It is designed with a simple GUI interface that works similarly to when you use the Internet in a hotel or coffee shop. The log-in screen can be branded to showcase logos and brand colors for a charter operator or business.
Satcom Direct now includes Aircare Access Assistance's 24/7 telemedical support in its suite of business aviation services as a stand-alone feature. Earlier this year the company announced a partnership with Aircare Access Assistance so that Aircare Access can track flights for its clients using Satcom Direct's FlightDeck Freedom service.
Weighing less than 2 lb. per seat, Skycast Solutions' new TrayVu IFE system is integrated into the aircraft's tray table. TrayVu features include a solid-state tablet computer at each seat, a customizable Android platform, touch-screen keypad and tablet navigation, and faster, un-intrusive installation and maintenance — each unit swaps with two screws and a plug, and no seat modifications are required.
The system features HD resolution on an 8.9-in. screen, Wi-Fi compatibility, flexible viewing angles, and premium and complimentary content including movies, TV shows, games, shopping and destination offers.
Thales has unveiled the Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU), designed to be both a stand-alone media access device and a controller for the seat display. The TouchPMU is a menu-driven, touch-screen unit, built on the Android OS, and able to host “endless” third-party apps.
An open source and Web-based stand-alone media access device, the TouchPMU locally stores a range of applications independent of Thales' TopSeries IFE system. Passengers can watch moving map flight information, play games, take a survey, shop and chat onboard.
The TouchPMU is a handheld, 3.8 in., 800 x 480 resolution LCD unit, with an ARM Cortex processor, and uses capacitive touch navigation. The unit provides 3-D graphics as well as an accelerometer for 3-D graphic rotation and support for local games and applications. In the future, the product will include an Adobe Flash player for playback of videos typically found on the Web.
Thrane & Thrane
The Aviator 200, the latest and most compact in Thrane & Thrane's line of Inmarsat satellite terminals, is targeted at operators of light jets and turboprops. The system delivers workable Internet and email to Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones, tablets and laptops in return for a total investment of about $75,000 and just 13 lb. of added weight.
The system was launched in 2010 and shipments are approaching the century mark, according to Andy Beers, the Danish company's director of Aero Sales in North America. So far it has been certificated in the King Air 200 and 300, the Cessna Citation 500 to 560 and the CJ1. Campaigns are under way for the Partenavia P68,PC-12 and earlier King Airs, as well as Hawker 800 and 800XP retrofits.
The Aviator 200 delivers via the Inmarsat-4 constellation and its SB200 service launched last year. Currently data throughput is limited to a maximum of 200 Kbps, and that in coverage areas smaller than those available for the full 432 Kbps SwiftBroadband service, but the company hopes to expand it soon.
TrueNorth Avionics has introduced business aviation's first multilingual handset, the Stylus, which also incorporates TrueNorth's one-button interface, HD voice capability, wired and wireless configuration options, and personalization options that include custom materials to match the decor of any cabin or aircraft interior. Designed to match the footprint of TrueNorth's previous-generation handsets, the Stylus can be programmed to operate in any language, including those with dedicated character sets, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian.
Previously, TrueNorth introduced a compact Wi-Fi cabin networking device, ExpressPlus, which securely manages all wireless communications, IFE and cabin management devices. Using a built-in Ethernet-to-Wi-Fi link, the TrueNorth ExpressPlus interfaces with all FCC-approved airborne wireless devices, from communications units like handsets, intercoms and smartphones, to IFE units like DVD players, music players and game consoles, to cabin control systems for lighting and ventilation, to EFBs in the cockpit. Like its predecessor, the TrueNorth Express, the ExpressPlus also lets aircraft operators use their BlackBerrys to send and receive email over their existing Iridium satcom phones.
ViaSat's new satellite, ViaSat1, was headed for its geosynchronous orbital slot, its solar array deployed, and in-orbit testing in November. With 140 Gbps throughput capacity, the new bird is designed to serve the accelerating growth in bandwidth demand for multimedia Internet access over the next decade.
Once on station, the Ka-band spot beam satellite will include coverage over North America and Hawaii, enabling a variety of new, high-speed broadband services. ViaSat-1 joins WildBlue-1, Anik F2 and AMC-15 as capacity available for provision of WildBlue high-speed Internet access across America.
According to ViaSat, the download and upload speeds available on ViaSat-1 will be much faster than anything previously offered in the satellite industry and will transform the quality of satellite broadband. In 2012, the company is slated to begin delivering its newest service to airline passengers aboardand Continental Airlines.
Meanwhile ViaSat has expanded the coverage of its Yonder high-speed Internet service over Brazil and the surrounding region. The StarOne C1 satellite is providing the bandwidth and a ViaSat regional teleport has been installed and commissioned in Rio de Janeiro. The new region of the network is operational for maritime and aviation customers of the Yonder network.
The added coverage in South America automatically becomes available to Yonder service customers. ViaSat officials say the company remains on target to complete the full deployment of it network by the end of 2012.
Although the air carriers remain, for now, largely “seat centric” in their IFE offerings, streaming wireless is here to stay (for now) and more of this trend is in the works with almost all system suppliers. While not cheap to implement (again, for now), Wi-Fi reduces weight and wires. Maybe there's an app for that, too. BCA