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Researchers reach 8Gbps on V-band air-to-ground link

The transmitter attached to the wing of the aircraft. A small parabolic antenna ensures correct orientation towards the ground station. (Photo: R. Sommer/Fraunhofer FHR)

The transmitter attached to the wing of the aircraft. A small parabolic antenna ensures correct orientation towards the ground station. (Photo: R. Sommer/Fraunhofer FHR)

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany have succeeded in transferring data signals at a rate of eight gigabits per second (8 GBps) between an aircraft and a ground station using microwave signals in the V-band.

The researchers reached this high data rate for the air-to-ground radio connection using a radio frequency range between 71 and 76 Gigahertz.

In this range, just released by authorities, large bandwidths are available for achieving multi-gigabit data rates, making it attractive for potential high data rate inflight connectivity applications.

During the test flight, the research aircraft circled around the receiver station at a radius of five to twelve kilometres and a height of 1,000 m.

A KIT-developed control system for the parabolic antenna on the ground ensured precise orientation to the aircraft on the air-to-ground link.

The broadband connection remained stable for three minutes during a complete overflight at a radius of five kilometres. With a data rate of 8 gigabits per second, this corresponds to a data volume of 180 gigabytes.

KIT says that in the future, broadband internet and video-on-demand might be made available on passenger airplanes. Or high-resolution videos or sensor data might be transferred continuously and uncompressed from an airplane, an earth observation satellite, or a drone to the ground.

Thomas Zwick, Head of the Institute of High-Frequency Technology and Electronics of KIT, said: “The frequencies now available represent a good compromise between the achievable data rate and susceptibility to interference.”

The data rate achieved enables simultaneous transmission on the air-to-ground link of up to 600 different 4K video streams, corresponding to about 16 megabits per second.

It could also be possible to read out constantly growing data volumes on the operation of the airplane within from the onboard storage system, as the aircraft approaches or passes by. Today, this is still done by cable or Wi-Fi while the aircraft is on the ground.

The connection also works under bad weather conditions with clouds, rain, and fog.

The experiment was carried out under the research project “ELIPSE” funded by the German Aerospace Center and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Apart from KIT, Stuttgart University, Radiometer Physics GmbH, and the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR were involved.

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Researchers reach 8Gbps on V-band air-to-ground link was last modified: June 20th, 2018 by Steve Nichols
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