Airborne Wireless Network reports successful test flights

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Airborne Wireless Network (AWN) is developing the "Infinitus Super Highway".
Airborne Wireless Network (AWN) is developing the “Infinitus Super Highway”.

Airborne Wireless Network (ABWN) says it has completed “proof of concept” flights showing that high-speed data could be sent successfully from aircraft-to-aircraft and aircraft-to-ground and vice versa.

ABWN is developing the “Infinitus Super Highway”, which it says could provide a high-speed broadband airborne wireless network by linking commercial aircraft in flight as repeaters.

These would send and receive broadband signals from one aircraft to another, effectively using commercial aircraft as “mini-satellites”.

AWN plans to create a high-speed broadband airborne wireless network by linking commercial aircraft.

Each aircraft participating in the network would act as an airborne repeater or router, sending and receiving broadband signals from one aircraft to the next and creating a digital superhighway in the sky.

The May 31 flights, used two modified Boeing 767-300 jetliners in the skies over Roswell, New Mexico, USA, proving the viability of an airborne meshed network.

ABWN’s Vice President of Business Development and Aviation Compliance, Jason de Mos, said: “The purpose of this test was to determine the feasibility of an air-to-air and air-to-ground network. With the feasibility now confirmed, we are moving forward in development.”

ABWN’s proposed network is what many might consider to be the next generation of satellite networks. It says it would be a “low orbiting constellation” with up to 35,000 “satellites” (specifically aircraft) crossing the global skies between 8,000 and 50,000 feet.

It says its “constellation” would be configured as a fully-meshed network – a network topology in which each node (aircraft) relays data for the whole network.

ABWN’s business case is to use its own custom earth-stations to access the terrestrial fiberoptic network, as well as its redundant control and management sites.

Though not a network requirement, if practical, the company says it would consider possible cooperation with existing satellite operators.

ABWN says it plans its first ever radio-managed aircraft-to-aircraft high-speed laser-link test in Q4 2017. It has a patent pending on this technology.

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Airborne Wireless Network

The primary purpose of the May 31 flight tests was to prove the functionality of ABWN’s meshed network, as this would allow it to accurately pinpoint the location of each aircraft, and share its flight-data among other aircraft within the assigned cluster(s) of 10-30 aircraft.

The data provided by the airborne “meshed radio web”, would then be used to manage the free-space laser overlay, thereby creating the first long-range mesh, capable of many Terabits per second.

As there would be up to 35,000 “satellites”, ABWN’s global network could provide tens, if not hundreds of thousand of Terrabits of data to wherever it is needed.

It says the use of a free-space laser could augment or replace portions of the terrestrial infrastructure, which it says is believed to be headed for digital gridlock.

It argues that it could also provide those who currently serve aircraft passengers with virtually unlimited two-way data.

A 20-aircraft test, equipped with production hardware and software, and pre-production antennas is planned for Q3-Q4 2018

ABWN says it is also developing its own aerodynamic antenna which is scheduled to be available for its global rollout, expected to start in Q1-Q2, 2019.

Laser-based communications

The company also recently announced that it officially entered into a design and manufacturing services agreement with ViaLight Communications, a developer of laser-based high-speed communication products. ViaLight will assist in the development of Airborne Wireless Network’s hybrid radio frequency laser-based communication system.

ViaLight has been engaged by ABWN to develop, design, test and manufacture a custom hybrid synchronised laser-based communication system to link neighbouring aircraft and/or ground stations on Airborne Wireless Network’s Infinitus Super Highway.

Michael Warren, CEO of ABWN said: “We are extremely pleased to announce our collaboration with ViaLight, a world-renowned pioneer and developer of laser communication products. With this agreement, we can capitalise on ViaLight’s experience and expertise.

“ABWN’S new hybrid approach and the expertise provided by ViaLight should help mitigate challenges and have a significant impact on ABWN’s ability to launch its proposed global airborne wireless meshed network. ABWN and ViaLight envision a future where high data rate connectivity in the skies and beyond is as natural as on the ground and we believe this collaboration will enable this vision to move forward.”

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