NextComm antenna

NXTCOMM completes design of its AeroMax flat panel antenna

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NextComm antenna

Atlanta-based NXT Communications has completed the design of a low-cost, flat-panel satellite antenna for the commercial and defense aviation markets.

The design uses standard PCB manufacturing technology with commercial off-the-shelf components and a unique modular sub array topology scalable to any form factor.

“AeroMax fills a critical broadband need facing airlines and operators as they resume flights in a changed connectivity environment,” said Dave Horton, Co-founder and CEO of NXTCOMM “Unlike traditional mechanically steered antenna designs, our antennas are modular and easily mass producible.”

NXTCOMM’s low-profile design maximises the usable space under the radome, allowing for more panels, and ultimately greater performance.

Leveraging advancements in RF and semi-conductor packaging and manufacturing technology, the AeroMax antenna optimises a highly integrated silicon-based chipset and sub-array design, which serves as the building block for a portfolio of next-generation, lower-cost commercial satellite antennas. The core aperture that drives the NXTCOMM antenna is field and flight tested, having been deployed in defense aviation and ISR applications.

“Our design represents a real breakthrough opportunity to bring proven, low-cost, high-performance flat panel satellite antennas to the commercial aviation marketplace,” says Carl Novello, NXTCOMM’s Chief Technology Officer, who is overseeing all antenna product design, development, and engineering activities. “The AeroMax antenna features no moving parts, is electronically steerable, and delivers significantly enhanced performance in both Ku and Ka frequency bands,” he adds.

NXTCOMM plans to conduct over-the-air testing later this year, with AeroMax antenna low-rate initial production (LRIP) available in early 2021.

SmartTray strengthens IP capabilities

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SmartTray International has received grants for six additional utility patents for Personal Electronic Device (PED) holders in passenger seats and tray tables for use in aviation and other modes of transportation.

The company now has 18 granted patents including a design patent.

Patented claims encompass integrated slot/groove, integrated kick-stands, independent and biased rotatable walls, self-adjusting mechanisms that expand and retract automatically to the thickness of PED’s firmly gripping mobile devices when placed in SmartTray proprietary PED holders.

According to SmartTray, its patented mobile device holders make it more ergonomic, convenient, safer, and easier to use travellers’ smartphones and electronic tablets on airplanes. There are more than 200 patented claims to PED holders in seatback tray tables (SBT), in-arm-tray (IAT) tables, and PED holders in passenger seats covering broad range of integrated PED holder geometries, including USB and wireless charging. Proprietary PED holders are conveniently located within arm’s reach of each passenger and in full sight.

“Adding new parts to the already certified passenger seats require that modified seats be recertified, a significantly more costly option. New parts add extra weight and extra weight costs more to fly around. Replacing existing seats with new or modified seats requires that airplanes be taken out of service at significant loss of revenue to airline operators. Therefore, SmartTray’s focus is on solutions that can be installed in minutes per passenger seat, require no disruption in service, or costly recertification,” said Nick Pajic, Founder, President & CEO of SmartTray.

“To expand our global footprint as quickly as possible, SmartTray works with suppliers to mass transit like OEM’s, MRO’s, IFE providers as well as FAA/EASA approved repair stations,” added Pajic.

“We can play a small or a larger role in supporting our customers through direct patent licensing agreements or manufacturing SmartTray proprietary PED holders in tray tables and passenger seats through SmartTray approved supply chain,” added Pajic.

To assist SmartTray with licensing and protection of its extensive patent portfolio, SmartTray has appointed intellectual property law firms, Niro McAndrews and Weiss & Moy.

“We are very excited to represent SmartTray in the licensing and enforcement of its important intellectual property rights,” said Raymond Niro, Jr., a Founding Partner at Niro McAndrews. “Our firm specializes in intellectual property and technology law, with an emphasis on the trial and appeal of complex disputes. We are hopeful that companies are amenable to accepting licenses for the use of SmartTray’s technology, but we are also prepared to initiate litigation if necessary,” added Niro.

Boeing 777X to benefit from ‘smart pipe’ technology

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Inmarsat is collaborating with Boeing to offer ‘smart pipe’ technology onboard its 777X aircraft.

The technology independently allocates connectivity bandwidth to multiple applications from the cockpit to the cabin. Operational benefits include predictive maintenance, route optimisation, modernised air traffic management and real-time crew communications. Passengers will benefit from enhanced passenger entertainment, including high-speed internet and live television.

Applications delivered on Inmarsat’s GX Aviation and SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) are each able to have a unique service level agreement and guaranteed performance levels, independent of other applications that are also operating through the same terminal.

Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “With the addition of ‘smart pipe’ functionality, we are paving the way for a more connected and integrated future, which is crucial for airlines around the world that are transforming their business with the power of digital technology.

“This is a significant milestone in developing the truly connected aircraft. The results from initial tests for our ‘smart pipe’ are promising and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Boeing in preparation for the forthcoming entry into service of its new 777X aircraft.”

Inmarsat’s new ‘smart pipe’ technology will initially be available to airlines that have either ordered or plan to order the Boeing 777X. In addition, these capabilities will be available as upgrades on other aircraft models.

Air Canada offers entertainment for streaming at home

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Air Canada has made a broad selection of entertainment content free to members of Aeroplan, the Canadian coalition loyalty program owned by the airline.

The carrier is making over 200 titles, including films, shorts and other video from its Canadian partners, available for streaming at no charge until 22 July.

“With summer’s arrival, together with respected Canadian cultural partners, we are making a selection of acclaimed entertainment available at home through streaming to all Aeroplan members based in Canada. Through the great content we have curated for our customers, we are bringing summer celebrations to Canadians,” said Andrew Shibata, Managing Director of Brand at Air Canada.

Content includes classic films featuring the best of Canadian and cultural cinema, presented by Telefilm Canada, as well as content from Canadian cultural organisations, including among others the National Film Board of Canada, the imagineNATIVE film festival, Reel Asian film festival and Prends ça Court. In recognition of Pride Month, the carrier is also offering a wide variety of LGBTQ2+ content from OUTtv.

Burrana RISEs to IFE challenges

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Burrana has unveiled its RISE IFE platform, which the company claim approaches traditional IFE challenges in a different way.

“RISE was created to solve airlines’ most challenging issues regarding in-flight entertainment, while providing passengers with an experience unlike any other,” commented David Pook, Vice President of Marketing and Sales Support at Burrana.

The RISE platform is modular and scalable and hardware, software, apps, and services which can be added or removed depending on aircraft type and business need. It is also a natural upgrade to the PAVES system inherited by Burrana following its acquisition of Rockwell Collins’ embedded IFE systems.

“We’ve been really clever about how we’ve architected our software, apps and services”, says Pook. “RISE has completely eliminated the need for time-consuming and expensive change requests, ATPs, and FSATs. Airlines will be able to add or remove apps from aircraft via a simple, web-based tool and make changes to their GUI by themselves, without the need for formal acceptance testing,” said Pook.

RISE sits on a shared hardware and a common 48VDC power backbone and can be configured to include seatback, wireless, or overhead entertainment, as well as in-seat power, or any combination of these.

All displays are 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) resolution and feature High Dynamic Range (HDR), more local storage, and robust processing power, packaged in a very thin (10 mm) and modern design. Each seatback display also supports integrated single-pin audio, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), and the airline’s choice between USB-C or USB-A offering.

The new GUI has been designed to offer a Netflix-like experience using crowd-sourced data, such as social content ratings  and intelligent algorithms (including real-time recommendations and contextual feedback) that adapts to the passenger as they use it.

Another new feature includes the ability to easily create advertising campaigns, with targeted adverts placed in proximity to high value hotspots.

As Pook explained in a virtual demonstration to media, RISE has been built to solve, and thus offers numerous ultra-high-speed content loading options, easier maintenance, and is claimed to be 30% lighter than competitive solutions.

Originally to be launched at this Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), the availability of RISE has been shifted due to the current pandemic and airlines delaying new deliveries. Both RISE Power and RISE 4K overhead are available to offer now, with retrofit on single and twin aisle aircraft starting Q1 2021 and available for linefit installations shortly thereafter. RISE Wireless for Seatback will be market ready in 2021, with retrofit and linefit options from 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Alaska Airlines adds E175 to regional fleet

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Airlines Airlines has added to its mix of aircraft as it looks unlock more markets.

Regional partner Horizon Air will operate an Embraer 175, from October serving select markets in Alaska.

“Alaskans who have flown the E175 jet in the Lower 48 have frequently asked when they might see the plane in the state, and we’re thrilled the time has come,” said Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President. “This jet gives us the flexibility to increase daily frequency between Anchorage and Fairbanks up to seven times a day, and to provide year-round service to King Salmon and Dillingham. In time, the new mix of aircraft will unlock other markets in the state for future service.”

With no middle seats, the regional jet is configured with 12 seats in first class, 12 in premium class and 52 in the main cabin. Onboard amenities include Wi-Fi access, and Alaska Beyond Entertainment, which includes free movies and TV shows direct to customer devices and power outlets in first class.

“This has been an especially challenging time for Alaskans with the pandemic and reduction of air service hitting residents hard,” said Romano. “We’ve served the unique needs of the Great Land for 88 years and introducing a new aircraft to our in-state fleet supports additional flying and keeps Alaskans connected within the state and beyond.”

Molon Labe unveils latest version of Stagger Seat

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Molon Labe Seating has introduced a version of its S2 Economy Class “Stagger Seat” that addresses both physical and respiratory protection.

This design aims to improve the safety of passengers in the Post-COVID-19 world while addressing the travel experience to offer more space, adjustable barriers, and optional direct cabin air venting to a passenger’s face.

The unique attributes of this design include:

  • A large rotating, one-sided headrest that acts as a physical barrier between passengers, rotating 180 degrees to offer options for passengers traveling with friends and family.
  • Staggered layout to increase lateral space whilst reducing contact points between passengers.
  • Staggered armrests to further reduce contact points between passengers.
  • Patented design that optionally vents fresh cabin air from the seat’s headrest directly towards the passenger’s face with controllable flow rates and direction similar to overhead cabin vents.
  • Option for cellphone (Bluetooth) controlled in-flight entertainment system.

Molon Labe expects this design will address the long-term concerns that have developed as a result of the global pandemic and plans to complete the design by the end of 2020. “Our aim is to look at a long-term solution by making these post-COVID specific changes to our S2 design addressing both passenger comfort and confidence,” said Hank Scott, CEO, Molon Labe Designs.

ThinKom reaches new IFC antenna milestones

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ThinKom Solutions has announced a major milestone for its IFC antennas.

The Ku3030 aero satellite antennas have been installed on more than 1,550 commercial aircraft of 16 major airlines, accruing over 17 million flight hours and achieving in excess of 100,000 hours mean-time-before-failure (MTBF) while supporting industry-leading 98%.

ThinKom has also reported the Ku3030 antennas recently completed successful OEM line-fit qualification testing by major airframe manufacturers.

“While we’re proud of our impressive record of best-in-class performance and reliability metrics for our patented VICTS antenna technology to date, we’re not resting on our laurels. We continue making operational software enhancements to further improve reliability and the network efficiency of our systems,” said Bill Milroy, chief technology officer of ThinKom Solutions, who added that the software updates can easily be uploaded to existing aircraft installations.

The company has also confirmed that its antennas comply with the latest international regulatory requirements, including ITU Article 22, which restricts NGSO terminal emissions to GEO satellites, and the new WRC-19 ESIM rules to protect terrestrial 5G networks operating in the Ka-band from interference emitted by airborne satellite terminals.

ThinKom’s Ka-band IFC antennas, using the same VICTS technology, are now in production. The Ka2517 antennas are fully operational on a fleet of US government aircraft and are nearing introduction on several commercial airline fleets. Multiple supplemental type certificates (STCs) are in process and are expected to be awarded this year.

ThinKom has worked closely with Gogo to develop an economical and efficient process to convert 2Ku systems to Ka-band for airlines seeking to transition to a Ka IFC solution.

Image: ThinKom’s Ka-band IFC antenna use the same VICTS flat-panel phased array technology, used by Gogo in its 2Ku in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems.

Retail inMotion and Bluebox join forces

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Retail inMotion is partnering with Bluebox Aviation Systems, to offer an enhanced touch-free retail proposition for airlines post-COVID-19.

“Airlines today face an increasingly challenging and evolving environment in meeting the levels of service passengers have come to expect over the last number of years,” said John Vaughan, Head of Product Management at Retail inMotion. “By combining the expertise of Retail inMotion and Bluebox, we can help airlines address these challenges both now and in the future while increasing ancillary revenues.”

“Airlines wish to get back to delivering in-flight experiences that delight passengers without compromising the safety protocols that are being implemented to protect both passengers and cabin crew,” states David Brown, Director of Business Development at Bluebox. “In partnership with Retail inMotion we’re offering a touch-less shopping experience for food, beverages and other goods on our battery or aircraft-powered wireless IFE platform, Bluebox Wow. Virtualising the trolley and facilitating touch-less payments, we’re enabling passengers and crew to maintain as much social distance as possible, while keeping open an important revenue stream for the airline.”

“Bluebox Wow already supports the hygienic provision of seatback information such as in-flight magazines and safety cards. However, the current environment expedited the need to deliver a touch-less payment option that integrated smoothly with the inventory management systems on board,” added Brown. “Working with Retail inMotion, we’re now able to bring that virtual trolley experience to market.”

Etihad Airways launches intelligent COVID-19 self-assessment tool

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Etihad Airways has partnered with Austrian-based healthcare technology company Medicus AI to launch a COVID-19 risk-assessment tool that will guide Etihad’s passengers in evaluating the probability of having contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus by responding to a set of 22 questions.

The self-administered assessment, which takes less than five minutes to complete, is based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines that are updated daily.

Frank Meyer, Chief Digital Officer, Etihad Airways, said: “We know that health and wellbeing will be a major factor impacting the travel decisions of our guests and are committed to ensuring their continued safety and peace of mind when they choose to travel with Etihad Airways. As flying operations begin to resume globally, we want to empower our guests to make informed decisions on travel. Partnering with Medicus AI on this innovative new tool is just one of the ways we are adapting our operations and guest experience to meet the new demands placed on the travel industry as a result of COVID-19.”

Dr. Baher Al Hakim, Chief Executive Officer, Medicus AI, said: “We are proud to support Etihad Airways in their efforts to ensure the safety of its passengers and crew as the world returns to normalcy. Our initial efforts at the start of the pandemic were to help provide assessment and monitoring tools, and as needs shift, our efforts have evolved to help our partners bring people back to their day-to-day life in a safe manner.”

The tool is now available to guests on Etihad.com and soon on the Etihad Airways mobile application on the Apple iOS, Android and Huawei platforms, and will be accessible in English, with additional language editions such as Arabic, French, German and Portuguese being added in phases.