APEX2014: Panasonic unveils new low-profile Ku-band antenna

Panasonic's Dave Bruner with the new phased-array antenna.
Panasonic’s Dave Bruner with the new phased-array antenna.

Panasonic has unveiled its new low-profile phased-array Ku-band antenna for the commercial airliner market.

The antenna has been developed with Boeing Network and Space Systems (N&SS) and offers a broadband, electronically-steered beam, but weighs only 140lb – a 65 percent reduction in operational weight.

It is also just 2.7 inches/68mm tall with a very low drag coefficient, which means it can help airlines save fuel without compromising antenna performance.

The new antenna will be available to the commercial aircraft market in 2016. Panasonic plans to offer the electronically-steered antenna for a broad range of narrow- and wide-body aircraft.

Because it uses a phased array it has no moving parts and therefore promises better reliability. However, it works better at low latitudes and has a cut-off at about 20 degrees elevation – about a latitude of 55 degrees.

Panasonic’s Dave Bruner said that it despite this limitation it will appeal to a lot of airlines looking for maximum performance, but with low drag.

“The antenna is best suited to lower latitude routes, perhaps not trans-Atlantic, but in talking to many airlines we found that it wasn’t a problem – it could cope with 90% of their routes.” he said.

“And if they want an antenna for higher latitudes we have our mechanically-steered antenna.”

The antenna has an integrated radome and is no taller than an iPhone, as Bruner demonstrated.

Boeing VP Paul Geery explained that phased-array antennas have come a long way from their early adoption for “Connexion by Boeing” (CBB).

“Technological advances means we can now design something that is far more powerful, but with much lower weight,” Gerry said.

Panasonic says the antenna will find favour among the growing single-aisle market, although it will also work with wide-body aircraft.

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