AIX: Astronics proposes pureLiFi for aircraft data transfers

Astronic's George Guffey and a demonstration of the LightTransfer system.
Astronic’s George Guffey and a demonstration of the LightTransfer system.

The Astronics stand is showing a pureLiFi system in Hamburg that could be used to quickly transfer data to and from aircraft at the gate via light.

The Gatelink pureLiFi system uses light instead of radio waves to connect devices for fast data transfer. “Get Connected” first wrote about this technology back in 2016 when we interviewed Li-Fi inventor Professor Harald Haas.

Astronics demonstrated a cabin-based variant of LiFi at last year’s APEX show in Boston. In the demonstration a dongle was used to receive the Li-Fi signals, but in the future the technology could be built into tablets and mobile phones. A new IEEE standard is being introduced in 2020-21 that could kick start its widespread adoption.

Astronics showed that even if you covered the sensor for a few seconds HD videos continue to play for up to 13 seconds as it buffers the content.

Astronics is commercialising the system, which uses the light in your cabin overhead unit to communicate with your laptop or PED. The advantages are enormous in that speeds can be 42Mbps right now, with laboratory testing seeing speeds up to 11Gbps.

But it has now taken it one step further, using its Light Transfer or LiTr system to transfer data to the aircraft while at the gate.

This makes a lot of sense – aircraft IFE systems need frequent updates, but this has traditionally been done using cartridges and/or other memory devices.

Astronics subsidiary PDT proposes using LiFi mounted in the underbelly of the aircraft to communicate with a light mounted on the ground.

File transfers could be automatic and fast, allowing multiple streams of secure data to and from aircraft while they are at the gate. This could be in-flight purchases, maintenance data, or entertainment files.

Each light can transfer at speeds greater than about 7Gbps with no limitations on capacity. And the system could even be used for other tasks, such as bag information.

The benefit is that it could be automatic, is faster than WiFi and needs no maintenance. It is bi-directional and works with 10-90% light illumination.

The system is also maintenance free and can even be fitted into landing lights.

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