RUAG develops new solution for 4G connectivity
March 8, 2017 By RUAG Aviation
RUAG Aviation is developing a solution for a brand new 4G LTE connectivity experience in helicopters. This allows passengers to enjoy the same connectivity as they have on the ground. For this purpose RUAG Aviation is certifying an European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Supplemental Type Certification (STC).
With this new STC RUAG Aviation is focusing on a solution for the VVIP market. The decision to offer a new solution was taken in response to a customer request for truly reliable smartphone data connectivity at an affordable price. The STC is based on employing the same architecture used for today’s 4G LTE broadband technology. Customers are set to benefit from a presently unmatched seamless, fast and reliable internet connection.
“Discerning customers expect to stay connected easily and with as much speed as they have in their homes and offices,” asserts Philippe Niquille, who leads the Helicopter Cabin Interiors center of excellence at RUAG Aviation in Emmen. He explains, “Our customer approached us with the request for an in-flight helicopter cabin solution allowing them to have the same access to smartphone connectivity as they do when they are on the ground. Their requirements include instant messaging, video calling, full social media interaction, live streaming and fast internet searches.”
Schematics of the STC involve accessing the ground-based 4G LTE networks via a dedicated antenna specifically designed for helicopters. The antenna then interfaces with an on-board router and wifi. Flight testing demonstrated clearly the reliable connection to 4G LTE networks throughout the helicopter’s entire flight – including in remote and mountainous areas. In fact, the connection effectively mirrored smartphone connectivity on the ground.
“By keeping the technology straightforward and strong, the RUAG Aviation STC represents a solution meeting the most stringent of requirements for the most demanding customers, yet being weight efficient,” confirms Philippe Niquille. “Traditionally, helicopter cabin interior connectivity has been coupled with costly, bulky and cumbersome SATCOM systems. Now RUAG Aviation VVIP customers have the potential to experience twice as fast and reliable connection at a significantly lower operating cost.” STC development cites the Leonardo AW109 aircraft. The solution may be easily adapted for other platforms as well.
“Enabling our discriminating VVIP customers to realise a truly personal helicopter cabin interior and in-flight experience is our priority and our passion. This project highlights just one of several cabin interior features we are exploring on behalf of their comfort and well-being,” emphasises Claudio Zeiter, Team Leader Commercial Helicopter Services, RUAG Aviation.