LSE predicts connected aircraft will transform airline operations

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London School of Economics (LSE) is predicting that the move towards connected aircraft will transform airline operations and safety into a strategic asset.

This is the takeaway finding from the second chapter in the Sky High Economics series, a first of its kind research report evaluating the economic value of connected aircraft from now until 2035. The first chapter, on the economic value generated by passenger connectivity, was released in September 2017.

According to the report, produced in association with Inmarsat, the connected aircraft, enabled by satellite communications, has the potential to save airlines US$15 billion annually in operational efficiencies and 21.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2035.

These efficiencies include fuel savings, a reduction in delays, innovations in maintenance processes, air traffic management enhancements, safety improvements and others. Based on current connected aircraft numbers, the research finds that together these efficiencies can generate up to a 1% reduction in the $764 billion spent by airlines each year in operating costs worldwide. This equates to 20% of the forecast global aviation industry net profit in 2018 ($38.4 billion). As the adoption of connected aircraft is set to rise exponentially, this cost saving is expected to double, saving airlines up to $15 billion globally by 2035.

Dr Alexander Grous, Department of Media and Communications, LSE and author of Sky High Economics said, “The forecast doubling of aircraft in the skies by 2035 will create both challenges and opportunities for the global aviation industry. IP-enabled aircraft are an essential step in facilitating growing demand for air travel, while meeting vital safety requirements. The study’s findings highlight not only the powerful commercial efficiencies for airline operations, but crucially, the resulting advantages for safety and environmental impact.”

Frederik van Essen, senior vice president, Market and Business Development, Inmarsat Aviation, added, “This report demonstrates that the connected aircraft is a shrewd commercial decision; unrivalled access to real-time data is reducing airlines’ bottom-line operating costs while reducing emissions and improving safety. Not only that, enhanced connectivity is becoming an operational necessity as our skies become busier. With finite airspace available to accommodate increasing passenger numbers, airlines need to act now and consider the technology and infrastructure they need to future-proof their operations.”

Researchers achieve data transfer rate milestone

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A team of researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has transferred signals at a rate of 8 gigabits per second between an airplane and a ground station.

The breakthrough allows the simultaneous transmission of up to 600 different 4K video streams, corresponding to about 16 megabits per second.

The high data rate was achieved by using the radio frequency range between 71 and 76 GHz for the air-to-ground radio connection. The range has been newly released by German authorities.

“The frequencies now available represent a good compromise between the achievable data rate and susceptibility to interference,” said Thomas Zwick, head of the Institute of High-Frequency Technology and Electronics of KIT.

During the test flight, the research aircraft circled around the receiver station at a radius of 5 to 12 km and a height of 1,000 m. A KIT-developed control system for the parabolic antenna on the ground ensured precise orientation to the airplane. The broadband connection remained stable for three minutes during a complete overflight at a radius of 5 km. With a data rate of 8 Gbps, this corresponds to a data volume of 180 GB. The connection also works under bad weather conditions with clouds, rain, and fog.

The experiment was carried out under the research project “ELIPSE” funded by the German Aerospace Center and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Apart from KIT, Stuttgart University, Radiometer Physics GmbH, and the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR were involved

Image: Transmitter attached to the wing of the aircraft. A small parabolic antenna ensures correct orientation towards the ground station. (Photo: R. Sommer/Fraunhofer FHR)

Report sees mass uptake of in-flight connectivity

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Over 23,000 commercial aircraft will offer connectivity to their passengers by 2027, up from 7,400 aircraft in 2017, according to a new report from Euroconsult.

“In January 2018, around 90 airlines had either installed or committed to install in-flight connectivity (IFC) solutions,” said Pacôme Revillon, CEO of Euroconsult. “Offering connectivity was first seen as a differentiating factor, however as more and more airlines provide connectivity, offering in-flight Wi-Fi starts to become a must-have in order to keep a competitive positioning in the extremely challenging airline market.”

“In the current take-up phase, we have witnessed an evolution of the pricing models applied by airlines to their passengers, from free access to a premium applied by the hour, by flight or on a monthly basis, as airlines try to find the ideal business model to lighten the burden of connectivity solution provision,” added Revillon. “For airline connectivity suppliers, we estimate that revenues from IFC topped US$1.2 billion in 2017 and should reach $8.7 billion by 2027 for commercial aviation alone.”

The report ‘Prospects for In-Flight Entertainment & Connectivity’ suggests that the ability to support video streaming on a large scale shall be a game changer and that revenue per aircraft per year shall constantly rise in the coming years to match the ever-increasing need for bandwidth. The report also suggests that the need to improve profit margins, and to benefit from economies of scale, shall favour vertical integration and consolidation in the IFC value chain.

The report’s authors believe that beyond cabin connectivity, the next ten years will see the full emergence of the SmartPlane concept. Aircraft being more and more connected will start to support all the latest IT trends such as IoT, Big Data, analytics, cyber-security and so forth. Intensifying competition among the different stakeholders of the IFC value chain, in order to offer more bandwidth to the aircraft, will allow aviation to enter a new era with connectivity at its heart.

Report reveals big push for connected aircraft

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Advancements in high-speed, in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity are the driving force behind a major investment wave in the commercial aviation industry, a new report from Honeywell claims.

According the new Honeywell Connected Aircraft Report, spending on connected technologies will increase dramatically in the coming years, driven by a rapidly growing demand for solutions that enhance the passenger experience, save airlines money and improve operational efficiency.

The spending will be largely focused beyond the cabin, with maintenance ranking highest among the pain points that airline decision makers want to tackle. Investment in connected technologies is expected to rise significantly during the next 12 months, and to increase even more rapidly over the next five years.

“The airline industry is beginning to seriously invest in Connected Aircraft technology to proactively improve daily operations. The result is airline employees performing their daily roles more effectively, while also delivering the kind of service that passengers expect, including increased safety and on-time arrivals,” said Kristin Slyker, vice president, Connected Aircraft, Honeywell Aerospace. “With the massive potential for cost savings and improved operations, predictive maintenance is the No. 1 area in which airlines are looking to invest. Our research revealed nearly 60 percent of airlines are looking to purchase predictive maintenance technologies over the next year, and even more are expected to invest down the road.”

The Honeywell Connected Aircraft Report features survey responses from maintenance personnel, flight and ground crew, fleet management personnel and other key stakeholders in the commercial airline sector on near- and long-term technology purchase plans. Connected Aircraft technologies are seen as one of the most important long-term investments to improve all-around operations and competitive standing within the industry. The benefits of these technologies also go well beyond passenger entertainment in the cabin. The next wave of investment in connectivity is to address three main challenges: maintenance effectiveness, fuel consumption and aircraft turnaround time.

“The Connected Aircraft brings immense opportunity to increase flight efficiency and productivity for pilots, maintainers and flight operations managers, while delivering a safer and more enjoyable experience for passengers,” Slyker said. “Data is allowing us to help airlines maximise their aircraft utilisation and increase their return on investment.”

Swoop introduces new mobile app for IFE streaming

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Canadian ultra-low cost airline (ULCC) Swoop has launched a mobile app as it prepares to introduce commercial services on 20 June.

The app is available for iOS 10 or newer, and Android 5 or newer, and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

“We live in an increasingly digital world, so providing our travellers with a mobile app to make the travel experience more convenient was paramount for Swoop,” said Steven Greenway, president and chief executive officer of Swoop. “The app also allows us to offer in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity through Swoop Stream, and that’s a key differentiator for a ULCC.”

In addition to being able to access for-purchase Wi-Fi and entertainment amenities, the Swoop app allows travellers to quickly and easily book flights, manage bookings, check-in, view boarding passes, and track flights.

The “my trips” feature of the app gives users important information about upcoming trips. Users can view their itinerary, manage their flight or retrieve their boarding pass.

The “Swoop Stream” feature connects travellers to for-purchase in-flight entertainment amenities including the latest movies and television shows streaming on Swoop flights. Wi-Fi connectivity is also available on-board and can also be purchased through Swoop Stream.

Lufthansa expands film and TV offerings

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Lufthansa has significantly upgraded and expanded its in-flight entertainment programme on long-haul flights, offering passengers a choice of around 180 films in all travel classes – a 30% increase in content.

Based on feedback from travellers, the focus is on current Hollywood productions, with a new category, Hollywood Recent Hits – featuring films from the past 12 to 24 months – added to the library.

In addition, more productions from Europe, China, India, Japan and Korea can now be seen on board.

Lufthansa has also significantly increased the number of TV productions available in the in-flight entertainment programme, including popular trend series, with more than 270 broadcasts available.

As part of this, the number of documentaries, drama series and sitcoms have been expanded, while for families, 22 films suitable for children and 31 TV programmes have been added.

Air Canada rolls out connectivity across international fleet

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Air Canada has begun offering next-generation, satellite connectivity on its wide-body international fleet with the introduction of Air Canada Wi-Fi provided by Gogo, becoming the first Canadian carrier to offer customers the ability to stream TV and movies in-flight through the internet.

“Air Canada customers on international wide-body flights will have access to the fastest internet service available on any Canadian carrier. Air Canada Wi-Fi will make traveling more enjoyable whether you’re connecting with family and friends, watching a favourite movie or TV program on the internet, or scrolling through your social media feeds. The speed and reliability of Air Canada Wi-Fi will also make it an excellent productivity tool for business travellers, who will be able to keep in touch and work during their journey so they can stay up-to-date and arrive fully prepared for any meeting or event,” said Benjamin Smith, president, Passenger Airlines, at Air Canada.

Air Canada Satellite Wi-Fi is now available on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and on Air Canada Rouge’s narrow-body fleet. The entire Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge wide-body fleet – including the Boeing 777-200LR, 787-8/9 and Airbus 330 and Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER – is scheduled to be equipped with the system by mid-2019. Customers can choose from a selection of Wi-Fi packages to suit their needs and Air Canada is offering special introductory pricing for the service starting at CAN$5 on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet until August 31, 2018.

In addition to the satellite connectivity available on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and the Air Canada Rouge Airbus narrow-body fleet, Air Canada and Air Canada Express also offer customers Wi-Fi connectivity through a ground-based system provided by Gogo on their narrow-body Airbus A319/320/321, Embraer 175/190 and Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft travelling within North America.

Gogo AVANCE L5 flying on 200th business jet

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Gogo Business Aviation’s AVANCE L5, which helps deliver delivering faster speeds and enhanced network capacity, has been installed on its 200th aircraft.

So far more than 400 AVANCE L5 systems have shipped and Gogo expects to have approximately 500 installations of the new system by the end of 2018.

“The market demand for AVANCE L5 remains incredibly high and our partners are installing the system at a remarkable pace,” said Sergio Aguirre, president of Gogo Business Aviation. “We’re thrilled with the feedback we’ve been receiving. The customers who have been flying with AVANCE L5 on-board their aircraft have been very happy with its performance.”

AVANCE L5 systems are actively being installed at all MROs and aftermarket OEM service centres. To date, Gogo and its OEM partners and dealers have received type certificate and supplemental type certificate (STC) approvals for AVANCE L5 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) across more than 40 airframes. Gogo and its partners are securing STCs for more than 15 additional airframes in the coming months, meaning AVANCE L5 will be available for installation on more than 55 business jet platforms.

Seamless Air Alliance completes structural setup

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The Seamless Air Alliance has completed its structural setup, enabling new membership beyond the founding members and the addition of Nokia, Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes to the alliance.

The alliance said members across a group of industries will play a role in enabling travellers to board any flight on any airline across the world and use their own devices to automatically connect to the internet with no complicated login process or paywall.

A series of working groups will collaborate in tandem to develop an agreed set of standards on which to build a new ecosystem and that by empowering member mobile operators to extend their services into airline cabins, the alliance will provide a seamless passenger experience.

“Welcoming additional industry leaders to the Alliance is key to enabling a new seamless, high-speed, low-latency broadband experience for passengers. Together, we are committed to lowering the barriers to access and raising the standard of quality for in-flight connectivity on all routes,” said Jack Mandala, Seamless Air Alliance chief executive officer. “As Alliance membership continues to expand across industries, we are excited to lead the charge in making the paradigm shifting vision of seamless in-flight connectivity, a reality.”

The Seamless Air Alliance was founded by Airbus, Airtel, Delta, OneWeb and Sprint to accelerate the introduction of technologies on board aircraft to enable passengers to use their connected devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, watches, IoT devices) seamlessly.

The inaugural members’ meeting of the Seamless Air Alliance will take place on 18 June 2018, co-located with APEX TECH 2018, at the Sheraton Gateway in Los Angeles.

SunExpress partners with Immfly for new IFE system

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The leisure carrier SunExpress, a joint venture of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, has partnered with Immfly to introduce a new in-flight entertainment system.

SunExpress Entertainment will be rolled out across the fleet of Boeing 737-800NG and MAX aircraft and will be personalised for every passenger with an on-demand function through the passenger’s mobile devices.

A range of entertainment modules such as TV shows, movies, music, games, newspapers and magazines, as well as children’s content, will be available on board the SunExpress aircraft.

To access entertainment content, passengers enter the Immfly Wi-Fi network on board through their own personal electronic devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop).

As Immfly’s digital platform will be present in two distinct markets, the company said it will count on international providers such as 20th Century FOX, as well as local content from Turkey and Germany, respectively.

“In addition to only offering entertainment and flight information, Immfly works closely with SunExpress to perfectly fit their digitalisation strategy and enable SunExpress passengers to enjoy a digital seamless travel journey including the on-board experience,” said Vincent Tomasoni, chief customer and content officer at Immfly.

‘Your Destination’ provides guidance and tips for passengers about places to go, the less well-known highlights of the city and the various activities to seek out on you have arrived. The section offers information regarding transfer services, tours, where and what to buy, all available in a guide format covering the airline’s routes and in several languages.

SunExpress Entertainment also provides practical information about the flight itself. An interactive 3D map of the route in the ‘Flight Info’ section shows a real-time flight tracker to checkpoints of interest, the airline’s destination, the actual time at the destination, outside temperature, the aircraft’s altitude and speed, as well as the predicted arrival time. Passengers will also be informed about local weather conditions and forecasts at their final destination provided by The Weather Network.

Additionally, SunExpress’s catering and duty-free menus – SunCafe and SunShop – will be available on the digital platform. The airline plans to enhance this channel by allowing the passenger to select and pay for goods from the platform in a ‘self-service’ way and to choose to receive the order at their seat or from the galley.

“We are happy to work together with Immfly on our in-flight entertainment system in the future,” said Peter Glade, commercial director of SunExpress. “Our guests’ experience is of paramount meaning to us, which is why we need a strong partner as Immfly by our side in order to offer a diverse entertainment programme in line with additional services.”