Satellite communications operator OneWeb has signed a joint development agreement with GDC Advanced Technology (GDC). GDC is developing and testing a new In-Flight Connectivity terminal which OneWeb says will deliver the benefits of its LEO constellation including high throughput and low latency to airlines and their passengers from 2023.
The pair say the terminal will enable airlines to connect their aircraft, passengers and crew to connect over the OneWeb satellite network. The agreement says the new terminals are “significantly lighter and smaller than existing aviation antennas”.
“The new terminal based on the electronically steered antenna technology developed by Ball Aerospace, has already undergone early lab and ground testing at the GDC facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, and will deliver the much-anticipated benefits of OneWeb’s LEO constellation including high throughput and low latency to airlines and their passengers from 2023,” said a joint statement.
“This agreement with GDC Advanced Technology represents a major milestone for OneWeb as we accelerate our plans to bring globally consistent and game-changing in-flight connectivity to aviation users everywhere – regardless of the size of aircraft they fly on.” said Ben Griffin, VP/Mobility at OneWeb.
“The agreement reaffirms OneWeb’s activities to connect the unconnected by supporting commercial, regional, business and government aviation users. The terminal will initially be available in two sizes, a traditional ARINC 791 for larger commercial airliners, and a smaller installation suitable for regional jets, single aisle and business aviation platforms,” added the statement.
The statement continued: “The GDC terminals for OneWeb are significantly lighter and smaller than existing aviation antennas. The attenuated aerodynamic profile produces virtually no drag, significantly reducing fuel burn compared with current fuselage mounted antenna types. The antenna is sealed and contains no moving parts, making it extremely reliable with no risk of fluid ingress. The system is designed for ease of maintainability, with four (4) simple Line Replacement Units (LRUs), any of which can be replaced in less than 30 minutes.”
The terminals have also been engineered to allow airlines to deploy a hybrid LEO/GEO connectivity solution. OneWeb says it expects this to be a key differentiator as airlines initially embrace and become confident in the benefits and performance of their new LEO technologies.
Tracy Trent, President, GDC Advanced Technology, commented: “We were thrilled by the performance of the terminal during ground testing earlier this year. The terminal was able to unlock the full capabilities of the OneWeb network. We are on track to have the system airborne in early 2022 and continue the path to certification, implementation, and ultimately to bring this game-changing technology to our aviation customers and their passengers in 2023.”
The agreement includes development of installation certification (STCs) for several aircraft types, and pursuit of line-fit offers with major airframe manufacturers (OEMs).