Volocopter is opening 1,000 reservations for early flights in its electric air taxi, once certified. Image: public demonstrations above Stuttgart, Germany (left), Singapore’s Marina Bay (center), and Helsinki International Airport (right). (Volocopter)
German air taxi developer Volocopter announced at Greentech Festival in Berlin it will take 1,000 reservations to be among the first to fly the aircraft once it is certified and available for commercial use.
The approximately 15-minute flights, at a cost of €300 euro, can be reserved for €10 euro and be redeemed within the first 12 months of commercial launch, according to Volocopter. Customers will also receive a video of their flight.
“While the final certification for air taxis is still pending, we do have a detailed realistic timeline to launch commercial VoloCity flights in the next 2-3 years. Moreover, those who reserve now can receive the latest updates about our progress and the commercial launch plan,” said Christian Bauer, Volocopter’s chief commercial officer.
As the only electric air taxi developer to have received design organization approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Organization (EASA), Volocopter is believed to be one of the companies closest to receiving certification for its VoloCity air taxi. The company has also conducted public demonstrations in in Stuttgart, Germany and over Singapore’s Marina Bay.
“Based on our public test flights and regulatory achievement record, we have paved the way to make electric flight in cities common in just a few years. With the start of reservations, we now invite our supporters and innovators around the world to join us and be amongst the first to experience this new and exciting form of mobility,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter.
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The Army on Friday conducted the first flight of the modernized UH-60V Black Hawk, which is a retrofit of the UH-60L upgraded with Northrop Grumman’s ‘digital cockpit’ suite.
“The Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) had its first flight of [the] newest configuration of the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Since its original induction as a UH-60 Lima (L model) airframe, CCAD configured this helicopter into the current UH-60 Victor (V model),” CCAD said in a social media post.
While the Army flew a prototype model of the UH-60V in January 2017, the flight on Sept. 11 was the first with a fully-upgraded model.
CCAD is responsible for the reconfiguration and refurbishing to upgrade the UH-60L Black Hawk to the UH-60V model.
In April, the Army completed initial operational test and evaluation for ‘digital cockpit’ upgrades for the avionics suites to be integrated on UH-60Vs.
Northrop Grumman’s ‘digital cockpit’ suite is designed to increase pilot awareness and enhance navigational functionality by moving from an analog architecture to a digital infrastructure enabling a pilot-vehicle interface.
“It is designed with a secure, open architecture that provides greater mission flexibility and a rapid upgrade path,” James Conroy, the company’s vice president for navigation, targeting and survivability, said in a statement from April.
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With $75 million raised, Volansi is well-positioned in the middle-mile cargo drone delivery space. (Volansi)
Volansi completed a $50 million Series B financing round led by Icon Ventures to continue development of its autonomous vertical takeoff and landing cargo drones. Other participants in the round include Lightspeed Venture Partners, YCombinator, Harpoon Ventures OnePlanet, Graphene Ventures and Merck Global Health Innovation Fund.
Volansi’s portfolio of drones, focused on autonomous middle-mile delivery, span payloads of 10 to 50 lbs, with its signature VOLY C10 carrying 10 lbs over 50 miles. That drone was recently chosen by the state of North Dakota for testing and development of its statewide beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) network, primarily because of the ease which various technologies such as command-and-control links and detect-and-avoid can be installed on the platform.
“Volansi’s proposal was impressive. We feel confident that the VOLY C10 will not only meet our needs in testing the earliest stages of network deployment but will support the integration of new technology as the project evolves,” said Jim Cieplak, program manager of the statewide BVLOS network. Physical infrastructure for that project will be built by Collins Aerospace, L3Harris Technologies and Thales USA.
The company’s focus is on urgent delivery of spare parts, medical supplies and defense logistics, providing a cheaper and faster alternative to both helicopter and ground-based transport, particularly in areas with poor infrastructure or limiting geographic features.
“In austere, remote locations, our VTOL drones could be used to replace the use of helicopters for smaller-weight/size deliveries to remote communities. For example, providing nutrient-rich, fresh foods to small outpost communities and bringing back mail,” Hannan Parvizian, CEO and co-founder of Volansi, told Avionics International. “We’ve found that utilizing our drones in these scenarios costs 1/4th the expense of utilizing manned helicopters.”
Slow regulatory progress on integration of unmanned systems into the airspace will likely limit autonomous drone delivery operations in the United States for some time, but major retailers continue to announce pilot projects. Walmart recently launched one in partnership with Flytrex in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and another with Zipline in northwest Arkansas.
Daniel Pepper, founder and CEO of Vayu, a developer of delivery drones used for medical transport in Rwanda, Madagascar and other countries, told Avionics he sees small, consumer package delivery by drones of this type —particularly in urban areas — as a ‘publicity stunt’ and ultimately not a profitable application of the technology.
“The places where drone-based cargo delivery makes sense are in rural, remote, and otherwise inaccessible areas, and for high value commodities,” Pepper said. “In the parts of the world with an abundance of risk capital, this is a solution looking for a problem, while in the parts of the world that need (and can pay) for this capability, risk capital is scarce.”
For Volansi, military contracts may be the near-term answer. In May, during the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime virtual kickoff event, Volansi unveiled its VOLY M20, a hybrid, multi-mission variant that can carry both 20 lbs of cargo and 10 lbs of sensors up to 350 miles at 75 mph cruise speed.
Kirsten Bartok Touw, founder and managing partner of AirFinance Ventures — an investor in Volansi, as well as cargo drone startup Elroy Air — told Avionics she sees much of the significant near-term monetization opportunity for the cargo delivery space in military applications rather than the industrial space, as militaries often operate in austere environments with little existing infrastructure and also have less rigid requirements for fielding of aircraft than civil regulators.
With this Series B, Volansi’s total funds raised to date reaches $75 million, granting the company significant flexibility to continue development of its aircraft and expand and scale operations globally.
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Under a new strategic alliance, Satcom Direct will feature MySky’s artificial intelligence-powered aircraft spend management technology within its SD Pro flight data management platform. (Satcom Direct)
Satcom Direct established a new strategic alliance with MySky to bring artificial intelligence (AI)-powered spend management to its SD Pro flight operations data management platform.
Switzerland-based MySky first launched its Spend Management application in 2015, bringing the use of character recognition, machine learning and real time analysis of individual aircraft procurement and forecasting. Both companies plan to release the upgraded version of SD Pro by the end of the year, with a focus on enabling more end-to-end transparency for all financial transactions that occur between aircraft owners and fleet management providers.
SD Pro is Satcom Direct’s open architecture data management platform that flight departments use for everything from tracking aircraft voice and data usage per flight to generating maintenance reports and tracking component lifecycle performance. As a result of the integration with MySky, SD will add a financial component to its SD Pro platform and promote increased “fiduciary duty amongst industry stakeholders,” according to Satcom Direct.
Kirill Kim, co-founder and CEO of MySky, told Avionics International the alliance with Satcom Direct will help fleet management providers improve the way they communicate procurement costs to aircraft owners.
“Asset managers process invoices and bill owners, and previously owners never knew if what they’re paying for was fair, and for the asset managers, they never could show or prove a measured level of efficiency for what they perform,” Kim said. “We take all invoices, process and then benchmark all your costs to show what you’re spending against market averages in terms of procurement. If you’re inefficient, we can show asset owners a fair assessment of where they stand in terms of procurement and how to improve the spend going forward.”
MySky’s new alliance with Satcom Direct comes amid a period of continued expansion and growth for the company, including their announcement in June of a partnership with S&P Global Platts to add the company’s global database of jet fuel price assessments, giving owners more access to market averages for fuel costs based on where they are operating.
“One of the features of benchmarking, we can pick up any invoice in the past and tell you on a specific date, how to analyze that invoice, to see if you were spending or saving enough on a specific date at a specific airport,” Kirill said.
Both owners and managers will be able to view all financial information generated about every flight on the SD Pro dashboard. The upgrade will bring a dedicated MySky portal to SD Pro and add a new finance application that keeps track of all of the costs savings being achieved for each individual aircraft in real time.
Colin Quarless, vice president of product management and strategy for Satcom Direct said the alliance could also open up new opportunities to improve the way owners manage connectivity procurement and service costs. Since SD Pro already captures voice and data usage on a per month basis, owners will now be able to see how much they’re paying to operate in-flight Internet service on a per flight or per month basis compared to the industry average.
“We believe there will be a lot of power in what the data synchronization will do between the platforms,” Quarless said. “We already record the procurement spend on a per flight or per month basis, and now we can share that data as part of an end to end spend management inclusive of connectivity.”
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Check out the Sep. 13 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.
The Airbus “fello’fly” project will evaluate the use of Wake Energy Retrieval (WER) flying, where a follower aircraft will retrieve the energy lost by the wake of a leader aircraft, by flying in the smooth updraft of air it creates. (Airbus)
Under new agreements signed with two airlines and several air navigation service providers (ANSPs), Airbus will evaluate the use of Wake Energy Retrieval (WER) to reduce aircraft emissions.
The company confirmed agreements with Frenchbee and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, as well as France’s Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne (DSNA), the UK’s NATS and Eurocontrol for their new “fello’fly” project in a Sept. 9 press release.
“WER replicates the behavior of birds, which fly together to reduce their energy consumption. The technique of a follower aircraft retrieving energy lost by a leader, by flying in the smooth updraft of air the wake creates, reduces fuel consumption in the range of 5-10 percent per trip,” Airbus said.
Flight testing will take place throughout 2020 using two Airbus A350 aircraft, with the involvement of the airlines and ANSPs as early as 2021 in an oceanic airspace.
Eurocontrol’s new study included participation from London Heathrow Airport, shown here where a hygiene technician checks a passenger kiosk. (Heathrow Airports Limited)
A new study published by Eurocontrol, “Impact assessment of COVID-19
Measures on Airport Performance,” to provide an in-depth understanding of the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions, regulations and guidelines on how airports manager passengers and aircraft.
The study focuses on terminal operations, including how many minutes physical distancing, testing and new check-in procedures have added to the overall flow of passengers through airports.
“Six external partners largely contributed to the project: ACI EUROPE and IATA, and 4 airports, namely Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, London Heathrow, Stuttgart and Swedavia airports,” according to Eurocontrol.
“As far as departures are concerned, the compulsory COVID measures might add up to 10 minutes to the passengers’ journey,” the study says. “One concern is the suitable provision of staff to support the COVID measures, especially to compensate a reduced security control throughput which, if not addressed, could lead to backing up passengers into the terminal areas.”
Check out the full 138-page study here.
The Federal Aviation Administration is hosting a Zoom virtual meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Monday Sept. 14, starting with a “Call to Order” at 8:45 A.M. ET.
The meeting will feature a keynote address from Major General DeAnna M. Burt, Director of Operations and Communications, Headquarters United States Space Force. Interested viewers can register for the free meeting here.
Check out the full agenda for the meeting here.
Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet design is ready to begin wind tunnel testing this month according to a Sept. 10 press release. (Aerion)
Aerion Supersonic has a new partnership with Shift5 to increase the “cyber resiliency” of the onboard electronics for their AS2 business jet, according to a Sept. 10 press release.
The Florida-based company describes itself as a supplier of cyber defense for embedded internal networks used by “operational technology platforms such as planes, trains, and tanks.” Under the new partnership, Shift5 will “enhance the cyber resiliency of the AS2’s avionics and other onboard networks through expert design review and enable optional integration of its cyber monitoring products to the aircraft.”
“Aerion is setting new standards in the aerospace community on cyber monitoring and advanced security of onboard electronics, something we see as a standard feature in years to come. Shift5 is thrilled to collaborate with Aerion on the cyber resiliency of their primary aviation platform, the AS2, and continue to build better data and security products to protect transportation” said Michael Weigand, President of Shift5.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Agile Condor wide area surveillance pod is to undergo classified testing over the next year after a recent flight on the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper at GA-ASI’s Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, according to the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC).
“The Agile Condor pod is a critical component of a lot of different programs of which we’re part,” U.S. Army Col. Brad Boyd, chief of joint warfighting operations for JAIC, told reporters on Sept. 10. “Our project, called Smart Sensor, is interacting with [Project] Maven as well as the Air Force on developing the Agile Condor pod capability to enable essentially autonomous tracking of whatever you want on the battlefield, theoretically.”
Check out the full article in Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International.
The Federal Aviation Administration will select four airports nationwide to host some of its testing and evaluation of drone detection and mitigation systems as the agency works toward eventually publishing standards around safe and effective use of such systems near airports.
On Aug. 21, the FAA released a solicitation looking for at least 10 drone detection and/or mitigation systems to be tested over a period of up to 24 months, beginning in early 2021 at Atlantic City International Airport (KACY). Systems that “graduate” from initial testing will then be moved to one or more participating airports for additional evaluation.
At least one of the four selected airports “must rank in the top 10 of the FAA’s most recent Passenger Boarding Data,” according to the agency’s release. The FAA intends to select four airports with unique operational environments to best understand how drone detection and mitigation systems are affected by variables such as geography, noise, airport infrastructure, interference and proximity to metropolitan areas.
“The four selected airport operators’ properties must be at least 2,300 acres, which is the same size of the property the FAA intends to use for testing and evaluation as part of Phase 1 at KACY,” the solicitation states. “The FAA expects the UAS detection technologies to cover 2,300 acres of the selected airport operator’s Air Operations Area (AOA) and as much surrounding area as possible with a general goal of reaching approximately 5 miles out from the center point of the AOA. The FAA expects the mitigation technologies to protect the AOA.”
North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) will use Volansi’s VOLY C10 eVTOL drone for site acceptance testing and use case development for the state’s beyond visual line of site network. Collins Aerospace, L3 Technologies and Thales USA were recently selected to build out the physical infrastructure for the network.
The VOLY C10 was selected because it is expected to allow for the integration of numerous technologies, including command-and-control and onboard detect-and-avoid, as well as the flexibility to support various payloads needed for testing different use cases. It is also in the the process to obtain an FAA durability and reliability type certification.
“Volansi’s proposal was impressive,” said Jim Cieplak, program manager of the statewide BVLOS network through the NPUASTS. “We feel confident that the VOLY C10 will not only meet our needs in testing the earliest stages of network deployment, but will support the integration of new technology as the project evolves.”
U.S. government leaders will join the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF Coalition) on Sept. 14-15 for the first-ever Sustainable Business Aviation Fuels Summit.
Members of government attending the summit include U.S. Reps. Garret Graves (R-6-LA) and Rick Larsen (D-2-WA) and Acting U.S. Under Secretary for Transportation Policy Joel Szabat.
The officials will join others from government, as well as manufacturers, producers, providers/FBOs and operators, to discuss how to increase the production, availability and use of SAF, the cleaner-burning alternative fuel which, on a gallon-per-gallon basis, often reduces net lifecycle CO2 emissions in excess of 50%, versus conventional jet fuel.
Earlier this year, automaker Toyota presented at the Consumer Electronics Show on its vision of mobility and life in a “woven city” created at the base of Mount Fuji. The company’s future-looking activities expand far beyond the scope of cars, with its strategic venture arm Toyota AI Venture — an early supporter in Joby Aviation, one of the leaders in electric VTOL flight — as well as many other sensing, shipping and robotics companies.
Now, Toyota has formed an $800 million growth fund it calls Woven Capital to provide larger, later-stage investments into companies developing new technologies and business models in the mobility space. Toyota identified autonomous mobility, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data and analytics, connectivity, and smart cities as areas it intends to focus on.
Geoffrey Levene is the Director of Global Business Development for Data Science and Space at NVIDIA.
On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we learn how airlines and aerospace manufacturers are adopting the use of data science workstations to develop task-specific machine learning models with Geoffrey Levene, Director, Global Business Development for Data Science and Space at NVIDIA.
In a May 7 blog, NVIDIA – one of the world’s largest suppliers of graphics processing units and computer chips to the video gaming, automotive and other industries – explained how American Airlines is using its data science workstations to integrate machine learning into its air cargo operations planning. During this interview, Levene expands on other airline and aerospace uses of those same workstations and how they are creating new opportunities for efficiency.
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Anduril Technologies claims its Ghost 4 is “the best drone in the world,” offering over 100 minutes of endurance and advanced autonomy and teaming capabilities on a ruggedized single-rotor airframe. (Anduril Technologies)
Anduril Industries this week released Ghost 4, the latest iteration of its small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed for military and commercial use. The company founder Palmer Luckey, describes it simply as “the best drone there is.”
Designed like a skeleton of a helicopter, Anduril opted for a single rotor over a multicopter setup to achieve lower disk loading, greater endurance and a quieter acoustic signature. The drone can fly for over 100 minutes with real mission payloads, according to Anduril, with a max payload capacity defined as “dozens of pounds” and a frontal cross-section smaller than some phones.
A launch video for the Ghost 4 shows the drone’s modular payload system equipped with electronic warfare, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), loudspeaker and other payloads; Luckey said it can support “five standard payload modules on the top and as many as space and weight allow on the bottom.” The UAS is also shown taking off while soaking wet, multi-mission capable and resistant to sea sprays.
“Ghost is incredibly rugged, a mix of well-machined metals and carbon fiber composites with a direct-drive motor and minimal wear components,” Luckey wrote in a blog post. “We weren’t trying to set flight endurance records – our top priority was to make something that could survive neglect, desert heat, arctic cold, high winds, heavy shock, abusive combat environments, and submersion in salt water.”
The drone is designed “from the start” for swarming and teaming, according to Anduril, with one operator able to control many airframes across a vast distance by fusing data from thousands of sources into a common operating picture. It’s also supposedly autonomous — a trait claimed by every drone manufacturer these days — with the operator able to “rely on Ghost to reliably perform all kinds of tasks for them, even when communications are jammed or turned off to avoid detection.”
Perhaps the most revolutionary statistic released by Anduril is that Ghost’s onboard artificial intelligence core is capable of performing 32 trillion operations per second, enabling the aforementioned autonomy, teaming and multi-mission capabilities.
“The processing is all aboard the airframe, can’t rely on fat data pipes in contested environments!” Luckey commented on Twitter.
Release of the Ghost 4 comes as the Pentagon and U.S. government continue to stress the importance of creating sUAS products and supply chains fully independent of Chinese companies to counter its longstanding dominance of the market.
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) recently launched Blue sUAS, a kind of military vetting program which cleared five U.S. and allied drone models — Altavian’s IONM440C, Parrot’s ANAFI USA, Skydio’s X2, Teal Drones’ Golden Eagle and Vantage Robotics’ Vesper — for safe and secure use by the rest of the government.
All the components used in Anduril’s technology are made either in the U.S. or allied countries, or can be replaced with ones that are, according to a Wired interview with Luckey. Ghost 4 almost certainly will not compete with China’s DJI drones on cost, but it will certainly exceed them on capability and reliability provided to warfighters.
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EASA is ready to attend the Joint Operations Evaluation Board meetings in London after completing its test flights in Canada. (EASA)
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) officials are ready to participate in a multinational evaluation of the 737 MAX’s re-entry into service after completing test flights of the aircraft in Vancouver, Canada.
Starting on Sept. 14, EASA will be one of several countries at London’s Gatwick Airport for the Joint Operations Evaluation Board’s (JOEB) review of the pilot training needs for the 737 MAX, one of the final stages before the aircraft can re-enter commercial service. The global 737 MAX fleet has now been grounded by civil aviation authorities globally for 17 months, after separate Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air flights crashed and killed a combined 346 passengers and crew onboard.
Other members of the JOEB include the FAA Flight Standardization Board (FSB), Transport Canada and Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). JOEB’s meetings in London this week occur after their recent participation in simulator tests of the updated 737 MAX flight control system and software update at the beginning of September.
A tweet from FlightRadar24 shows one of the the 737 MAX test flights that EASA participated in. (FlightRadar24)
“EASA has been evaluating the redesign of the 737 MAX according to its established process,” a representative for EASA told Avionics International. “The test flights are an important part of that process and the fact that these have now taken place indicates that EASA judges the overall maturity of the re-design process was sufficient to move to this stage. The flights are not the final step, but they could be seen as the commencement of the homestretch, providing everything goes as expected. But there is still work to do.”
According to an Aug. 27 EASA press release, the process to schedule the flight tests were “hindered by COVID-19 travel restrictions between Europe and the United States,” which ultimately lead to the mutually agreed upon location of Vancouver. While EASA would not comment on a projected timeline or details around the type of data collected from the test flights that will be reviewed by JOEB, the agency provided further clarification on its process for returning the MAX to service in Europe.
“As FAA is the state of design and the primary approver, it is its role to issue the approval first. FAA approval is a precondition for EASA approval. EASA’s approval is indeed required before MAX operators based in Europe can return their 737 MAX aircraft to service,” the representative said.
The completion of test flights by EASA comes two months after the FAA participated in its own certification flight testing with Boeing. An update published by the FAA in July confirmed the agency is working on new Airworthiness Directive for the MAX. Boeing had to complete a software validation effort associated with the MAX flight control computer’s microprocessor and autopilot engagement.
“EASA has been working steadily, in close cooperation with the FAA and Boeing, to return the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service as soon as possible, but only once we are convinced it is safe,” the agency said. “The Joint Operations Evaluation Board meeting (in London Gatwick) will assess the training requirements for the return to service. Further documentation and internal consultation is required before the final drafting of approval documents for publication.”
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Intelsat recently made the news with its acquisition of Gogo‘s Commercial Aviation division. The deal vertically integrates the In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) business with service provider and satellite operator, which will create capacity efficiencies, industry analysts said.
I spoke to Intelsat CCO Samer Halawi about the deal, how Intelsat was able to make the acquisition while in Chapter 11 proceedings, and Intelsat’s plan to transform the IFC experience.
“It’s a complicated ecosystem that has been troubled for a while,” Halawi commented. “It has not yielded the benefits to the end users that it should have, and it didn’t really grow the way it could have grown. Our aim is to change all of it, and have a service that really works well.”
Intelsat has agreed to purchase the business for $400 million in cash. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close before the end of first quarter (Q1) 2021.
Halawi: The IFC ecosystem, the way it was running for a number of years didn’t make that much sense and it wasn’t very successful. Service providers are struggling financially, and the airlines are not getting what they want in terms of quality of service and in terms of economics.
The service provision is quite inefficient. [Service providers] have to buy a lot of bandwidth based on the peak usage in multiple places in the world. … So they’re sitting on a lot of inventory that doesn’t make sense. Prices remain high, you don’t get the volumes and the takeup rates that you want. And as a result of this, we’re not making money either and it doesn’t make sense for us to reinvest in capacity for the airline.
For us, it was more of a need to redefine this ecosystem, and the best way to redefine it is to have a level of vertical integration that did not exist before. That [capacity] inventory, we have it anyway, so we might as well make it available to the market without having an entity in between that has to sit on it. Second, we can provide a better user experience that is seamless between different satellites around the world. And we can provide capacity that is dedicated to aviation. It makes more sense for us to invest more into the future of the sector. We can provide a much better experience to the airlines, to the consumers, and the economics will be improved as well.
Halawi: This is an investment that we’re making for the future, not for today and it has really nothing to do with the Chapter 11 restructuring. I think what’s remarkable about this deal is we were able to do it during Chapter 11 restructuring — very few deals are done like that. But that that speaks to the underlying strength of our business. It also demonstrates that this restructuring is an offensive move, not a defensive move. We’re not doing it because we have to, we’re doing it because we want to improve where we’re going as a company and we have a strong vision in the future to return to growth.
One of the main elements of it is going to be commercial aviation. We believe in that sector that we’ve decided to take control of it, and redefine it. That’s why we went for the largest service provider in commercial aviation. Our future plans as a company are to invest in infrastructure that is software-defined, that is capable of providing really good services to a commercial aviation sector. We’ll be able to put the capacity in a dynamic way where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
Halawi: Because we are in Chapter 11, [the deal] has to be approved by the court, and the court has to look at what the creditors are seeing. There was no rejection of this deal [from] any of the creditors, and that speaks to the logic of doing that deal. This is a deal that makes a lot of sense for Intelsat, that makes a lot of sense for Gogo, and it makes a lot of sense for the airline customers.
We’re buying Gogo for $400 million. They buy north of $100 million worth of capacity, and there’s a chunk of that that will move on our network. So that fact alone means that there’s an upside to us from having capacity that is on our network. It was supported by the creditors and as a result, it was an easy approval by the bankruptcy court.
Halawi: The service in the airplane depends on multiple factors. Obviously, there’s the hardware that you put in the plane — the antenna — and Gogo has a really good antenna. It’s probably the best antenna in the market right now. But the satellite network is highly important, and the teleports and the ground infrastructure that serve this are highly important. We have a satellite network that is excellent, and we are investing in a next-generation of software-defined Epic satellite capability that will be really good for commercial aviation. Once you have all this fabric under one management, that will improve the experience quite a bit for the airlines. We will be able to provide them with capacity that is geared towards them.
Intelsat operates multiple satellites as opposed to one big satellite in a given area. When you are serving [airline hub cities] with multiple satellites that look at them from different angles, then you are providing a lot of capacity to those hub cities that one single satellite cannot provide. We have a lot of capability to provide service to hub cities and that’s important to airlines to provide services from gate to gate.
The other thing is with multiple levels of satellites, if you have a failure at some point, you have redundancy. When you have the software-defined capability, then you can allocate the capacity where it’s needed so then you’re focusing the power where you really need it. You can follow individual airplanes, even. So from a quality point of view — it’s a complete transformational experience for airlines.
We’re looking at a future where consumers on the planes are going to have a living room experience. Today, we’re not there yet. We’re not at a point where you can do your Zoom and your Netflix from an airplane without complaining about the quality. We’re aiming to change that.
Halawi: Gogo uses capacity from other operators, and will continue to do that. We will never have enough satellite capacity just us to cover the needs of all the airlines that we can target. By having a network that is open architecture as opposed to closed architecture, we can absorb satellite capacity from other satellite operators, as opposed to a couple of our competitors who are vertically integrated, they have a closed system, it’s only their capacity.
By having the ability to have capacity from other operators, our value proposition to the airlines is going to be much stronger because we provide more redundancy, more resiliency. That’s only possible because we have an architecture for the network that is open, and allows other operators to provide their services.
Halawi: We believe in the vertically integrated model. Two other competitors do that model. Both of them have closed architecture, so they rely only on their own capacity. One of them is proven over the North American market, but does not have the same capabilities worldwide. We will be able to provide a seamless experience for an airline that travels worldwide.
We have antennas that are already on planes. When was the transaction closes with Gogo [we will have] the largest installed base of airplanes today, with a very healthy backlog. I think we’re starting at a very high point.
Halawi: Maybe it takes maybe two to three years before there’s a recovery, we do expect a recovery on this market, just like any other crisis. At the same time, we expect that once that recovery happens, there’s going to be a growth of more than 10 percent. And that double-digit growth, we can stimulate further by having the right services and prices, and the right business model.
There will be a lot more airlines that, because of the line-fit capabilities, will choose to have IFC capability when they order things. And second, [we are expecting] that a lot more people will use the internet on board than it is the case today. One, because it’s better quality; second, because it’s cheaper; and third, because they need it. Look at all of us right now, using Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This is a phenomena that we’re continuing over the long run. You’re expected, even if you’re on a plane, to be connected to the office.
Halawi: It will compete a little bit with Gogo in North America, that’s where they’re predominantly focused. But FlexExec is a service that we are offering on a global basis. And Gogo has focused on a certain size of business jets, while FlexExec focuses on a slightly different sizes of business jets. So although there will be some competition, they’re largely in two different sub-sectors of this market.
Halawi: Well, the reason they use a lot of Air-to-Ground on those small business jets is because the satellite antennas are too big to put on those small aircraft. In today’s technology, satellite is largely not feasible on those small business jets.
Halawi: Yeah. Our deal with them on Air-to-Ground has the whole evolution, including 5G. So we will be operating with them on the 5G as well.
Editorial Note: This article features an interview first published by Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics, it has been edited. View the original version here.
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Check out the Sep. 6 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a statement of clarification regarding its position on the Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service. Photo: EASA
The new “EU-China Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA)” took effect last week, with the goal of simplifying the process of achieving certification for new aircraft parts from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The agreement, first established last year, includes “any civil aircraft, aircraft engine, or aircraft propeller or sub‐assembly, appliance, or
part,” according to the 27-page document published in the Official Journal of the European Union in July.
The new agreement was activated during the first EASA and CAAC Joint Certification Oversight Board (COB) meeting on Thursday Sept. 3. During the meeting, the parties adopted the Technical Implementation Procedures (TIP) which will support the BASA and its Annex on Airworthiness. These administrative and technical procedures describe in detail how EASA and CAAC will conduct the validation and reciprocal acceptance of civil aeronautical product approvals.
“I am confident that, thanks to this bilateral agreement, the relations between Europe and China in aviation will be taken to the next level,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “This further strengthens EASA’s commitment to work closely with international partners on building a safe and environmentally sustainable industry.”
Airbus Canada Limited Partnership has officially transferred the overall A220 material management services to Satair, as part of the program integration into Airbus. Satair, an Airbus services company, will now take the lead on global material support and services for A220 operators, according to a Sept. 3 press release.
The A220 material management services transition to Satair started officially in July. Overall Satair is now in charge of a wide range of value-adding activities including “planning and inventory; purchasing; quality inspection; certification; warehousing and distribution; customer order handling; 24/7 AOG handling; initial provisioning and tool lease.”
“Satair’s footprint of service centers and warehouses will contribute to a greater scope of spare parts available for all A220 operators. Customers can look forward to leveraging Satair’s global presence,” said Bart Reijnen, CEO of Satair.
Universal Avionics introduced its new KAPTURE CVR/FDRs in a Sept. 3 press release. (Universal Avionics)
Universal Avionics (UA) introduces its new KAPTURE line of Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders (CVR/FDR). The company’s sixth generation of recorders has received FAA Technical Standard Order (TSO) authorization and meets all of the latest certifications and requirements, including ED-112A compliance, allowing operators to fly around the world.
The KAPTURE product line includes five model options, offering a customized recording solution:
“While complying with the latest FAA/EASA requirements and regulatory-related improvements, KAPTURE was designed with operators’ best interests in mind, factoring in weight, ease of installation, and data download requirements,” said Dror Yahav, UA CEO. “Each model offers the utmost in reliability with high MTBF and is backed by UA’s world-renowned customer support. The KAPTURE models offer all the features and benefits of our fifth generation CVR/FDR product line with reduced weights, plus many improvements and enhanced capabilities.”
Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division was selected to provided an ultra-small form factor (USFF) processing and networking solution to an unnamed electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer.
The customer will use Curtiss-Wright’s Parvus DuraCOR 311 flight control computer and Parvus DuraNET 20-11 Ethernet switch during continued flight testing of its prototype aircraft. The DuraCOR 311 measures less than 40 cubic inches in volume and weighs less than 1.5 lbs, while the DuraNET 20-11 measures only 10 cubic inches in volume, and weighs only 0.5 lbs, according to Curtiss-Wright.
Under the contract, deliveries are scheduled to begin this month.
SpaceX launched another batch of Starlink satellites on Thursday morning. A Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 Starlink sats from Launch Complex 39A at 8:46 a.m. EST, deploying the satellites about 15 minutes after liftoff. The Falcon 9 first stage successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship.
SpaceX also provided a key update about Starlink satellite internet service that it plans to deliver high speed connectivity to unserved or underserved areas. Kate Tice, senior program reliability engineer at SpaceX, said during the launch webcast that beta testing has shown “super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps.”
Tice said the network is still “very much a work in progress” and public beta testing will begin later this year. Check out the full story as first published in Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics.
The Boeing B-52 bomber’s latest radar modernization program upgrade has been delayed by six months. (Boeing)
The projected development start of the B-52H Radar Modernization Program (RMP) has slipped six months from this month until March next year.
“The program plans to start development in March 2021, a delay of 6 months from our previous assessment,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its Defense Acquisitions Annual Assessment in June. “According to program officials, providing input into the prime contractor’s solicitation process took longer than expected and involved establishing a framework to vet program requirements. Officials noted that the prime contractor was solely responsible for final supplier selection and will be responsible for ensuring supplier performance going forward.”
Last year, Boeing, the maker of the B-52 and the RMP prime contractor, picked Raytheon to design and build an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, based on AESA technologies in Raytheon’s APG-79/APG-82 family, to replace the B-52’s APQ-166 terrain-following and mapping radars by Northrop Grumman.
Check out the full story in Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics.
Concept art of the Nuuva V300. Image: Pipistrel
Pipistrel said it will begin taking orders for a new family of unmanned electric VTOL aircraft designed for cargo transportation that will operate ten times as economically as today’s helicopters.
The larger Nuuva V300, intended to carry 1,000 lbs at least 100 miles or 100 lbs up to 1500 miles, will enter into service in the second half of 2023. The V300 uses eight Pipistrel E-811 electric engines, which have already received type certification from EASA.
The smaller V20, to be used for last-mile delivery, has a payload capacity of 44 lbs.
A new aviation competition has been launched intended to spur development of sustainable long-distance passenger flights.
Sustainability advisory Carbon Footprint announced it will hold the Freedom Flight Prize, which will be awarded to the first group to fly a 100+ seat passenger aircraft powered entirely by renewable energy from London to New York and back within a 24-hour period.
“This is the revolution that I have been waiting my whole career for – the Freedom Flight Prize puts 100% renewable flights right in the spotlight in order to address the climate emergency we face,” said John Buckley, founder of the Freedom Flight Prize. “The Prize does not accept the compromise that long-haul travel produces a high carbon footprint – in fact it recognises that the technologies to power flights solely on sustainable renewable energy are available. We anticipate that the Freedom Flight Prize will propel the travel industry to deliver on the needs of the people and the planet.”
The Prize doesn’t yet have any sponsors, but Buckley told Aviation Today he expects it to be worth millions of pounds by the time it is claimed.
Australia Releases National Policy Paper on Drones and Emerging Aviation Technologies
Image: Australian Government
The Australian government released a policy paper outlining its starting point to develop a national policy around emerging aviation technology including drones and eVTOL aircraft, noting the risks and opportunities inherent in their use.
“We are just at the beginning of utilising and understanding this technology, and there is significant potential for further growth as technology improves, the scale of operations increase and we discover new applications for drones,” the report’s executive summary states.
The government’s proposed approach includes careful analysis of noise, safety and privacy impacts of these technologies, as well as support of technology trials in partnership with industry and development of an unmanned traffic management system. Airservices Australia recently released a request for information for the development of a Flight Information Management System (FIMS) prototype to be built as a central piece of the government’s approach to UTM.
Though many elements of the Australian government will be involved in regulation and support of drones and other new aviation technologies discussed in the report, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications will take the lead. The document is open to public comment until October 31, 2020.