Gilat proves its Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) inflight with Honeywell

Gilat has taken its electronically steerable antenna (ESA) for a test drive and has successfully demonstrated some outstanding Ka-band operations in the process. It’s the first time the ESA has been tested in flight; indeed, it’s the first-ever ESA product to be flight tested and has marked Gilat’s position as a leader in the field.

Gilat achieves ESA industry milestone _ Gila t team by Honeywell test aircraft image
Gilat has become the first company to demonstrate an ESA in flight. Photo: Gilat. Photo: Gilat

Flight testing Gilat’s ESA

Using the Honeywell Boeing 757 testbed, the ESA linked up with Telestar 19 VANTAGE Ka-band satellite from Telesat. This High Throughput Satellite (HTS) provided Ka-band connectivity via the ESA.

Gilat’s ESA is a perfect fit for aviation, thanks to its very low profile design, no moving parts and full electronic beam steering for on the move connectivity. It’s capable of connecting to both GEO and NGSO constellations in the Ka-band, working in harmony with Gilat’s aero modem.

The technology performed perfectly throughout every stage of the flight. Gilat said they achieved ‘remarkable scores’ and operational connectivity from gate to gate. 18 people simultaneously connected to the service with excellent reliability, and recorded speeds of 21Mpbs in the air. You can watch the testing in the video below:

Liran Wiener, Director of SatCom On-the-Move Programs at Gilat, commented in a press release,

“The accomplishment of the successful in-flight demonstration of Gilat’s IFC ESA terminal onboard Honeywell’s commercial jetliner using Ka-band capacity on Telesat’s Telstar 19 VANTAGE HTS demonstrates Gilat’s innovation and progress for next-generation IFC ESA technology, and our ability to overcome massive technological challenges.

“This exciting solution meets the communication needs of the aero market including both commercial and smaller jets that until now could not be served efficiently by existing solutions and opens up great opportunity for Gilat both over GEO satellites and Non-GEO constellations.”

Gilat ESA demonstration
The ESA was mounted to the Honeywell 757 testbed. Photo: Gilat

The rise of ESA technology

Gilat are not alone in the ESA space. Phasor has a very promising bit of kit, which has had some success with LEO satellites while stationary and on the ground. However, it’s yet to be tested in flight, and there seems to be some way to go on that project yet. Other projects are floating around, but Gilat’s is by far the most developed at this stage.

Gilat has the full support of other major players in the industry. Honeywell themselves have commented on how important this technology is likely to be for aviation in the future. Their Chief Technology Officer Kevin Calcagni commented on the tests, saying,

“Honeywell sees the electronically steered antenna as a key future technology, and this test is an important milestone showcasing its potential. We have been investing in this technology for several years, and in parallel look to industry partners to innovate with us. We are pleased to successfully collaborate with Gilat in this pilot that again demonstrates Honeywell’s leadership position in the connectivity market.”

Gilat achieves ESA industry milestone – antenna image
Gilat’s low profile antenna. Photo: Gilat

This latest news from the Israeli connectivity company comes on the back of several high profile announcements. Their recent +1GB achievement in tests of LEO satellites was further enhanced with the appointment of Slava Frayter as the Regional Vice President for North America, a clear signal that the company wants to push its North America profile.

Earlier in the year, Gilat secured a multi-million dollar contract with SES to deploy a VSAT platform for its O3b mPOWER MEO communications system, alongside a major contract with Global Eagle. It’s looking like a strong finish to 2019 for Gilat; we’re looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings!

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