RUAG Aviation is developing a new 4G LTE inflight connectivity solution for helicopters, giving passengers the same connectivity they have on the ground.
RUAG Aviation is aiming for European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Supplemental Type Certification (STC) on the 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.
Philippe Niquille, who leads the Helicopter Cabin Interiors centre of excellence at RUAG Aviation in Emmen, said: “Discerning customers expect to stay connected easily and with as much speed as they have in their homes and offices.
“Our customer approached us with a 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.”
The schematics of the STC involve accessing ground-based 4G LTE networks via a dedicated antenna specifically designed for helicopters. The antenna then interfaces with an on-board router and Wi-Fi.
Flight testing demonstrated 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 light weight,” said 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.”
The STC development is on the Leonardo AW109 aircraft, but RUAG says the solution may be easily adapted for other platforms.
Claudio Zeiter, Team Leader Commercial Helicopter Services, RUAG Aviation, said: “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.”