Honeywell Aerospace continues to develop its GoDirect connected aircraft service portfolio, using the satellite link for far more than just passenger entertainment.
Honeywell provides the antennas and terminal equipment for Inmarsat’s GX Aviation offering, so has a stake in ensuring the inflight connectivity pipeline is used to the maximum for e-enabled aircraft applications.
Darren L’Heureux, Honeywell’s Senior Director, Connected Aircraft Solutions, said: “We are talking a lot more now about what can you do with inflight connectivity. We are able to bring a lot of heritage from our nose-to-tail aircraft systems, flight efficiency capabilities and analytics platforms to create new software applications.
“In the past cockpit applications were predominantly for safety services, but with 80% of operations in the aircraft operations domain we can do a lot more with GX.”
There are currently no plans to certify GX Aviation for safety services, as L-band SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) offers a reliable, but somewhat slower pipe, even in bad weather conditions.
But the higher-bandwidth, multi-megabit pipe for GX Aviation still has a large part to play in non-safety-related communications. “Everything else you do in the cockpit, from electronic flight bag (EFB) operations and applications you can run, to getting flight data off the aircraft in real time, can be handled via GX,” L’Heureux said.
“Traditionally, airlines get flight data off the aircraft’s Quick Access Recorder (QAR) once the aircraft has landed, either manually or via wireless with Gatelink. But with the capacity and lower cost of transmitted data via GX it is now getting more affordable and practical to get it off the aircraft in real-time.”
L’Heureux said Honeywell has a new product called the Aircraft Data Gateway that is a retrofit product for legacy non-e-enabled aircraft.
“It is designed as a drop-in replacement for an airborne data loader, which is its primary function,” he said. “Now you can upload data, such as navigational databases and other loadable software, securely though a portal.
“With the portal you can also now push the data to an entire fleet with one action.”
He said that as the aircraft lands, the Aircraft Data Gateway can connect to the aircraft via a cellular or wireless link at the gate.
“We’re not quite there with real-time yet, this is post-flight and the maintenance crew can use a portable device to move the data across,” he said.
The device can also be connected to EFBs on the flight deck.
But the value of connected applications is in saving airlines time and money, which is what Honeywell is focusing on.
For example, its GoDirect Flight Optimisation app calculates the most optimum altitude for the aircraft in real time. It can take up-to-date weather models, which can be uploaded via the inflight connectivity pipe, to calculate the cost savings that could be made by changing altitude.
“This is additional information that current flight management systems (FMS) aren’t capable of,” L’Heureux said.
Honeywell also has a graphical weather app for EFBs that can get periodic updates during the flight.
GoDirect Flight Preview also allows pilots to preview 3D models of difficult runway approaches.
“We are combining applications into a single package called GoDirect Flight Bag Pro,” L’Heureux said. Version one is out now, targeting the business jet market, but a new version is coming that will be aimed at commercial pilots.
“It’s leveraging connectivity for doing far more than just keeping passengers happy.”
Honeywell also has predictive IoT maintenance applications that can analyse data from components, such as APUs, to warn of impending failures before they happen.