Satellite-based in-flight connectivity on helicopters has always been problematic due to the rotary interfering with the satellite signals. Thales’ Robert Squire tells FINN about how the FlytLINK solution is addressing this.
The solution protects aircraft communications from interference by weather, rotors, geographic features and other forms of signal interruption.
Thales’ FlytLINK operates using Iridium Certus broadband services over a network of 66 satellites that cover the globe, including poles and oceans. This helps to enable reliable mobile, voice, text and web communications for pilots, crews and passengers.
Squire explained: “What’s unique about Iridium and why it works really well in helicopters is the acquisition of the satellites is at the horizon. So actually you’re connecting underneath the rotor blades, which can assure you connectivity at any point in time. And even when you do connect through the rotor blades, the way that the algorithms work protects your connectivity. You only get a very small drop in capability.”
He added: “We’re able to offer something that actually has not really been available [before] today, both in terms of its size, weight and power – because what’s important for the helicopter market is to have equipment that is small.
“We have a very small antenna so that fits on essentially any size of helicopter.”
He said the FlytLINK solution will offer 700 kilobits per second (data transfer speed), compared to 2.4 kilobits per second, which is typical today.
Squire said: “So it’s going to be a gamechanger for the helicopter industry which is, like all industries, crying out for always-available connectivity.”
He added: “4G gives connectivity to 90% of the population. But really that 90% of the population only covers 10% of the planet. Iridium covers 100% of the planet. What we [offer with this] solution is connectivity wherever you want – powerful and in a very small package.”