The military-grade unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the Department of Defense (DoD) and other U.S. federal agencies, Vesper, and its Vision Ground Control Station (GCS) will become available to commercial customers for the first time, Vantage Robotics, the UAV’s manufacturer announced on Dec. 8. Vesper has capabilities like stealth and low-light cameras, endurance, portability, and a modular design.
“We’re incredibly proud to introduce Vesper, our elite small EO/IR drone with unequaled endurance, zoom, stealth, and low-light capabilities,” Tobin Fisher, Vantage’s CEO and co-founder, told Avionics International in an email. “After years of development and rigorous testing by the U.S. Department of Defense, Vesper is now ready for the most challenging reconnaissance missions. We look forward to significantly increasing capabilities for our U.S. government customers as well as select first responders, security, and inspections customers.”
Some of the commercial or civilian uses envisioned by Vantage for Vesper include facilities management, inspections of secure infrastructures, private security, wildlife management, oceanographic research and law enforcement. Vesper will become available for commercial purchase on Jan. 15, 2021.
According to Vantage, the Vesper has a flight time of 50 minutes and is able to reach speeds up to 45 mph and becomes unseen as well as inaudible at 50 meters. The gimbal can be swapped, and it also features two battery and rotor set options.
Operators control the drone using a 7-inch 1080p daylight viewable screen that has a four-hour battery life.
Through its partnership with the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) Blue sUAS Project, the Vesper was approved to fly in national and DoD airspace, according to Vantage. DoD secure user authentication, AES-256 encryption on communications and stored data, and bonded construction to prevent tampering are among the security features implemented into its systems architecture.
“Following months of cyber penetration testing and supply chain analysis, the US. Air Force granted Vesper and Vision GCS an ATO (Authority to Operate), further supported by redundant testing conducted by the Department of Defense’s Digital Defense Service,” Vantage said in a press statement.
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Check out the Dec. 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.
Ryanair, one of the largest low cost airlines in Europe, has placed an order for 75 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The new order comes two weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the grounded MAX fleet for return to service in U.S. airspace.
“Ryanair’s board and people are confident that our customers will love these new aircraft. Passengers will enjoy the new interiors, more generous leg room, lower fuel consumption and quieter noise performance. And, most of all, our customers will love the lower fares, which these aircraft will enable Ryanair to offer starting in 2021 and for the next decade, as Ryanair leads the recovery of Europe’s aviation and tourism industries,” said Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary.
O’Leary and Ryanair leaders joined the Boeing team for a signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. Both companies acknowledged COVID-19’s impacts on air traffic in the near-term, but expressed confidence in the resilience and strength of the passenger demand over the long term.
“As soon as the COVID-19 virus recedes – and it likely will in 2021 with the rollout of multiple effective vaccines – Ryanair and our partner airports across Europe will – with these environmentally efficient aircraft – rapidly restore flights and schedules, recover lost traffic and help the nations of Europe recover their tourism industries, and get young people back to work across the cities, beaches and ski resorts of the European Union,” O’Leary said.
Honeywell introduced its fourth-generation Combined Hydrocarbon Ozone Catalyst (CHOC4) which is a new catalyst designed to eliminate “smell-in-cabin” events or volatile organic compounds (VCOs) in “bleed air,” according to a Dec. 1 press release.
VCOs enter the cabin from the engines and auxiliary power units for air-conditioning and pressurization. The air can contain VCOs because of fumes or particles from jet fuel, hydraulic oils or deicing fluid and causes unwanted odors in the cabin, according to the release.
“Severe smell-in-cabin incidents can cost airlines up to $50 million per year in flight disruptions and unscheduled maintenance,” said Tom Hart, vice president and general manager, air and thermal systems at Honeywell Aerospace. “CHOC4 reduces VOCs from the engines and bleed air supply, thereby reducing the severity and frequency of these incidents.”
ThinKom Solutions is supplying its ThinAir Ka2517 aero satellite antennas to GDC Technics, the company revealed in a Dec. 4 press release. The Ka2517 antenna will be used to enable Inmarsat’s GX Aviation broadband satellite in-flight connectivity (IFC) solutions, including the new GX+ North American IFC service announced by Inmarsat and Hughes Network Systems earlier this year.
The Ka2517 antenna is based on ThinKom’s Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub (VICTS) technology. VICTS antennas have been used for 18 million operational hours on more than 1,550 commercial aircraft.
GDC’s next-generation IFC terminals with ThinKom’s antennas have received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) on Boeing 737-700 aircraft. GDC has planned for more STCs in early 2021 for the Airbus A320 family, additional 737 models, and Boeing 787/777 aircraft.
“The Ka2517 antenna fully complies with new regulatory requirements, including WRC-19 EISM and ITU Article 22, ensuring non-interference with terrestrial 5G cellular networks or with Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites when being used on Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO networks),” said Bill Milroy, chairman and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of ThinKom Solutions. “It also offers the switching speeds and agility to interoperate seamlessly with new multi-layered GEO, Highly-Elliptical Orbit (HEO) and NGSO satellite networks.”
Gogo released a new in-flight entertainment (IFE) upgrade for business aviation, Gogo Vision 360, which offers unlimited streaming of on-demand movies, TV, news, digital magazines, and a new 3D moving map, according to a Dec. 2 press release. Gogo Vision 360 is available with an AVANCE 4.2 software upgrade and comes in three package options and price ranges.
“Gogo Vision has become an essential part of the inflight experience for many of our passengers and operators,” Sergio Aguirre, Gogo’s president, said in a press statement. “Passengers want to be productive during their flights, but they also need downtime. The addition of a new 3D moving map will provide a new interactive experience for passengers that we’re excited to offer. Vision 360 is an important next step in our commitment to deliver the best in-flight connectivity and entertainment experience to business aviation.”
The 3D moving map is a partnership with FlightPath3D that offers an interactive experience with high-resolution satellite imagery, according to the release. It provides information about landmarks and attractions while showing real-time flight data like ground speed, altitude, and heading.
Gogo Vision 360 automatically updates every month through Gogo Cloudport or Gogo Cloud locations.
The Spanish Air Force (SpAF) received the final two MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and a Ground Control Station (GCS) on Nov. 23 from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), according to a Nov. 30 press release. The program is the first MQ-9A Block 5 acquisition by an international partner.
The MQ-9A Block 5 received an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate after completing acceptance test procedures (ATP) at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility before being delivered to the SpAF. This marks the first time Spain has issued an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate for the MQ-9A Block 5, according to the release.
“We are proud of our partnership with the Spanish Air Force,” Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, said in a press statement. “We appreciate the confidence the Spanish authorities have shown in the MQ-9 by issuing this type certificate and we look forward to seeing the system successfully operate in support of the country´s national Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) requirements.”
The delivery completes the Foreign Military Sales acquisition between the U.S. and Spain for four aircraft and three GCSs, according to the release.
The Department of Defense (DoD) released a Request for Information (RFI) for industry sources for Aerial Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (AISR) payloads for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) platform made by General Atomics for the Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) environment.
AISR payloads for the Gray Eagle include synthetic aperture radar (SAR), moving target indicator (MTI), electronic intelligence (ELINT), communications intelligence (COMINT), air launched effects (ALE), and radar warning receiver (RWR), according to the contract opportunity.
The contract opportunity also provided information about Gray Eagle’s concept of operations (CONOPS) within JADO stating the UASs need to fly in an integrated air defense systems (IDAS)-rich environment while delivering sensing capabilities. According to the RFI, the Gray Eagle flies racetrack patterns tangential to the IADS threat with a range of 80 km.
Adding to its existing portfolio of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), FLIR Systems Inc. [FLIR] has acquired Altavian Inc., a developer and manufacturer of small fixed-wing and quadcopter drones.
The acquisition also gives FLIR a spot on the Defense Department’s Blue sUAS program, which was created to provide trusted suppliers of small drones for military and federal agencies to acquire as the federal government turns away from purchasing the ubiquitous commercial drones manufactured by China’s DJI.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Altavian is based in Gainesville, Fla., and has more than 40 employees. The company manufactures Group 1 UAS, which typically weigh less than 20 pounds.
FLIR, through several acquisitions dating back to 2016, has carved out positions in small UAS and unmanned ground robotic vehicles. In the small UAS space, the company offers the palm-sized Black Hornet nano-UAS, which looks like a miniature helicopter and is used by U.S. and allied militaries.
Check out the full story as first published in Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International.
EmbraerX, a subsidiary of Embraer, released a concept of operations (CONOPS) for urban air mobility (UAM) in Melbourne, Australia using Airservices’, Australia’s civil air navigation service provider, sophisticated simulation technology, according to a Dec. 1 press release.
While EmbraerX completed the CONOPS, Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions, the new EmbraerX spin-off, will continue the partnership with Airservices to develop UAM solutions.
“This CONOPS proposes a safe method for allowing the UAM industry in Australia to scale,” David Rottblatt, project leader for EmbraerX’s Urban Air Traffic Management and appointed to be the future Vice President of Business Development for Eve, said. “Following this first critical step, we will start gathering feedback from industry stakeholders and the community to further inform how we can co-create this exciting future.”
The simulation uses Melbourne as a model for UAM in Australia to analyze how existing air traffic management can be utilized while also preparing for new technologies, according to the release. The use of Airservices simulation technology allows the CONOPS to have a scientific basis.
Universal Trip Support will be providing free trip feasibility and consulting services to general aviation operators classified as humanitarian COVID-19 vaccine delivery flights through June 30, 2021 the Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. announced in a Dec. 2 press release.
Even if the mission does not end up flying, the fees will be waived on feasibility assessments, research, and consultation services for any private aircraft classified as a humanitarian COVID-19 vaccine delivery flight, according to the release.
“In the early months of the pandemic, the world needed PPE, masks and tests,” said Universal Chairman Greg Evans. “Many flight departments answered the call for help, and we were proud to donate our services in support of so many of those missions. Now that we have several approved vaccines, the business aviation industry will undoubtedly play an important role in helping deliver them where they are needed most. We want to use our expertise in global aviation restrictions and logistics to help ensure these life-saving missions can happen and are a success.”
Abaco Systems embedded systems health monitoring software suite is getting an upgrade, Health Toolkit 2.0, according to a Dec. 2 press release. The new upgrade features enhance the systems capability and extensibility, provides integration with Abaco Deployed Test components, and offers a “Database connector” feature to subscribe and store health data.
Health Toolkit 2.0 collects voltage, temperature, memory usage, CPU/GPU/disk utilization, BIT and BIT information and publishes the data for analysis, according to the release.
“Interoperability is at the heart of Health toolkit’s core design: not only between HW in the same chassis but also between software at different layers,” John Muller, Chief Growth Officer at Abaco Systems, said in a press statement. “Furthermore, great attention has been given to the software portability across multiple future roadmap products. The concept of “adopt & enhance” not only preserves the same software quality across the product portfolio but speeds up the validation as well. From the R&D phase through deployment, Health Toolkit gives users the valuable information they need to make informed decisions quickly.”
Airbus’ Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) completed another successful test flight campaign during November in Arizona focusing on aircraft agility, control, and operations, according to a Dec. 3 press release. The campaign tested the Zephyr’s ability to fly at lower altitudes than previous test flights and included a new software control system and specific flight test instruments.
The test flight resulted in demonstrating a more resilient and capable aircraft, according to the release. During the flight, Zephyr completed take-off, climb, cruise, upgraded flight control, and descent phases.
“Having proven stratospheric flight, we continue to further mature the operational system with the objective to be more flexible and robust in order to meet our customer needs,” Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus, said in a press statement. “The outcome of this campaign is a valuable contribution to the full flight program next year.”
Zephyr is a solar-electric, stratospheric unmanned aerial system (UAS) that uses the sun’s rays as solar power, according to the release. It used this ability during a July 2018 test flight where it flew in the stratosphere for almost 26 days claiming the longest flight duration an aircraft has ever made without refueling.
On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we feature an airline cast study that was one of the sessions on our Connected Aviation Intelligence two-day live program this week. If you missed Connected Aviation Intelligence, register to watch it on demand for free here.
Daniel Barcenas, vice president, safety, security, and quality assurance for low-cost Mexican airline Viva Aerobus, discusses the software and connectivity upgrades they have invested in to improve the way they download and analyze aircraft data on a per-flight basis. Barcenas also gives some perspective on the importance of using connectivity to monitor the health of their fleet as they have returned to 100 percent of their pre-COVID-19 flight operations schedule.
The post PODCAST: Viva Aerobus VP of Safety and Security Talks Connected Aircraft Data Analysis appeared first on Aviation Today.
Over-the-air testing is underway for NXTCOMM’s disruptive new electronically steered antenna (ESA) technology with flight testing expected to begin next year, the wireless connectivity company’s co-founder and CEO David Horton told Avionics International during a recent interview.
In June, NXTCOMM introduced AeroMax, it’s new flat-panel satellite antenna that the company believes could disrupt multiple mobility markets with its modular design. On October 28, NXTCOMM signed a capacity agreement with Eutelsat Communications to use their E117WA satellite for over the air testing.
Horton said he expects AeroMax production to begin next year.
“Over the air testing is ongoing, and it’s really around our sub arrays and configurations that support multiple form factors for multiple end-users,” Horton said. “We’ll most likely be into low rate initial production by the end of Q2 2021, and then full-rate production in the second half of 2021. We are finalizing a few things including setting up production, workstations, assembly testing all of the things that we as antenna people have to do in order to satisfy the [Federal Aviation Administration] FAA certification and [Federal Communications Commission] FCC’s licensing requirements.”
Horton further explained how NXTCOMM plans to disrupt the IFC antenna market, by pointing to the unique design their antenna will feature. Developed using the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) patented fragmented aperture has already demonstrated its ability to provide satellite connectivity to military aircraft.
Whether vehicle or aircraft-mounted, AeroMax features no moving parts and offers dynamic instantaneous bandwidth utilizing the full two gigahertz on the face of the antenna or the side that faces satellites. Described by Horton as a “lego,” manufactured as a printed circuit board that can be modified on an aircraft by aircraft basis.
The antenna is being developed as both an ARINC 791 retrofit drop-in configuration and as a forward-fit antenna to in-production aircraft.
“Our Lego is a small form factor printed circuit board that is roughly 25 by 25 centimeters. In essence, what we’re able to do is take that one Lego and when a customer says they need the performance of the antenna to feature X-amount of throughput, we scale the number of Legos needed to enable that together and productize that,” Horton said.
“We don’t need to go back to the drawing board to re-design antennas every time a customer wants an antenna,” he added.
According to NXTCOMM’s Oct. 28 press release, under their satellite capacity leasing agreement with Eutelsat, they will also “offer satellite capacity to customers seeking a differentiated connectivity experience not available from existing service providers.”
“We know that there are many customers that would maybe like a solution such as ours to be turnkey. In the event that we receive such a customer request, we’ll have to take that on a case by case basis,” Horton said. “Right now, however, it’s a little early for us to be discussing a potential business model with regards to satellite capacity.”
NXTCOMM’s antenna technology is being developed at its 10,000-square-foot production facility in Cherokee County, Georgia. The company also intends to “introduce other products and services to comms-on-the-move markets in the next year” and will add 50 full-time positions, half of which will be specialized engineering roles, in the next 18 months, according to a June 29 press release.
Over the next few months, NXTCOMM will shift its focus to ongoing testing. “I mean, it’s one of those things where you just continually test the product and really truly understand the nuances of what electronically scan versus mechanical or, or hybrid solutions are all about,” he said. “But the testing will be ongoing for quite a while.”
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During the Connected Aviation Intelligence program Brit Wanick, vice president of digital solutions at SmartSky, spoke about SmoothSky, the company’s new real-time turbulence data service for business aviation. SmoothSky helps operators improve safety, efficiency, and user experience during flights.
“The goal, ideally, is that you’d have a dynamic map with you much like we have a Waze in the car today,” Wanick said. “We know when we’re going to come upon an accident, and we can make adjustments. We need something similar in the airspace and that begins with having objective data to be able to work with and a key element of that objective data is real-time turbulence and the ability to display in the cockpit so that we can take action, and have that action be based on real-time objective observations that are occurring so that we can get from point A to point B safely.”
SmoothSky uses the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Turbulence Aware Program crowdsourced anonymized data and then the data is put into SmartSky’s Skytelligence, which is their web platform for trusted information sharing in the aviation ecosystem, Wanick said. The data is then transferred through application programming interfaces to web-based aviation apps used by pilots, operations centers, and managers.
Turbulence Aware is a tool created by IATA that uses an algorithm developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) capable of collecting turbulence parameters from aircraft systems and sensors, aggregating that data and making it available in a raw format to participating airlines. Now, SmartSky is bringing the same capabilities to business aviation operators.
“So, our enrichment of it is to put it in a format that is most usable by the ecosystem of participants that we expect would need it, everything from a pilot to a web developer to a dispatcher,” Wanick said.
Wanick said SmartSky did not produce its own application for SmoothSky because there are already many options on the market, and they found the best approach to be formatting the information so that it can be used with applications users already had like an electronic flight bag (EFB) flight planning or weather awareness app.
SmoothSky is intended to be a real-time program, Wanick said. If turbulence is detected in an area, the program will report at one-minute intervals, if there is not turbulence detected, the program will report every 15-20 minutes. SmartSky was able to generate data, process the algorithm, and put the data in a display in less than five minutes during their Turbulence Aware testing process.
“If you had a trajectory path management capability that we’re able to pull into turbulence data and make adjustments, it’d be a lot like Waze, right,” Wanick said. “There’s an accident up ahead, in this case, there’s turbulence up ahead, on my plan path has now been reported, I want to make a change. It can provide alternatives you’d help provide a smooth ride throughout the event, allows you to essentially take advantage of better planning and arrival times.”
Wanick said SmoothSky will not only make flights safer by allowing route adjustments to avoid turbulence and severe weather, but it will improve operations by reducing potential aircraft damage and saving fuel with improved routing. It can also improve passengers’ onboard experience.
To make sure they had adequate coverage data for business aviation SmartSky coordinated with IATA to map standard flights on the East Coast, West Coast, and cross-country for turbulence reporting over the last year, Wanick said. His team also used various flight levels to gain a full scope of the data and coverage area
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Honeywell Aerospace is focusing on supporting new and next generation business aircraft by innovating with propulsion and avionics systems, Mike Madsen, the president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace, said. Madsen discussed the current climate of business aviation and a long-range forecast for the industry as well as Honeywell’s plans to address both topics during a Dec. 2 webinar.
Madsen said Honeywell will continue to upgrade the HTF engine family and create an entirely new engine centerline for larger and super midsize aircraft.
“We’re working on product improvement upgrades and technology assertions for the HTF 7000 series engines,” Madsen said. “We are also working on a new centerline engine that I will just say will be larger than the HTF engine and more to come on that. You know when you’re in the engine business, you never get out of the game. You’re constantly investing in these products. They have a long life, but they do need to be refreshed occasionally and we do see this general migration toward larger aircraft and the need and desire to be able to do with a mid-size airplane or a super mid-sized airplane what today can only be done with a large or ultra-long range aircraft.”
In terms of advanced avionics developments, Honeywell will be working on open software architecture flexibility and interconnectivity, Madsen said. This would be something similar to what the military is doing with the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE).
“The way we’re thinking about this is to think about core features that are tied to our fundamental aircraft performance and safety features, those things being sort of hard-coded but functionality, that’s tailorable wrapped around that,” Madsen said. “We want to make that available to the operators and to the airframers. It gives them a chance to make the aircraft a bit more be-spoke to that brand, or even to the operator that owns the aircraft. We think that’s going to be absolutely required in going forward.”
Another area where Honeywell sees interest is in connected offerings like satellite connectivity for cockpit and maintenance applications. He said the connected maintenance plans would be offered in conjunction with maintenance service plans already offered.
Among the connected aircraft applications under development are methods for automatically downloading engine data, Wi-Fi auto-billing and continuous engine health diagnostics, according to Madsen.
“Honeywell has introduced in a cell maintenance service plan for each for its HTF family of engines that now includes the new cell system and the components. This is for the Lombardi A Challenger 300 aircraft, the Challenger 350 aircraft, Gulfstream G280, and the Embraer Legacy 450/500 aircraft. And there are different options there I think you’ll see those kinds of things, all-inclusive maintenance plans,” Madsen said.
In 2021 Honeywell will also introduce a new lightweight micro-power unit mechanical system for smaller business aircraft that do not come equipped with an auxiliary power unit (APU), and they will also be releasing updates to their RDR 7000 weather radar system. The avionics maker will also be developing new compact fly by wire systems not only for business and general aviation, Urban Air Mobility (UAM), and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The impact of COVID-19 is likely to still have consequences on the business aviation industry through 2022, however, in five years Madsen said he sees the industry growing again. The five-year purchase plans Honeywell is tracking for aircraft have been largely unchanged, he said.
“We’re expecting some strong growth, really growth in every segment, but the strongest segments for growth over the next 10 years will we expect to see in the super midsize and large cabin aircraft, Madsen said. “I think it’s an evolving situation, the buyers of super midsize and large cabin aircraft continue to rate operating costs, direct operating cost, and cabin size, either first and second or vice versa.”
The post Honeywell Aerospace CEO Talks Future Business Jet Avionics, Engines Roadmap appeared first on Aviation Today.
The first successful test flight of a compact, advanced 4-axis helicopter autopilot system that will be used on Airbus AS350 and H125 helicopters was completed by Thales and StandardAero, according to a Nov. 30 press release. The compact autopilot is an intuitive automatic flight control system that will reduce pilot workload and improve safety.
The successful flight test of the Thales/StandardAero compact autopilot is a key milestone in the Supplemental Type Certification (STC) process. The autopilot is expected to be on the market by mid-2021.
“This state-of-the-art, 4-axis autopilot system has been designed as a straightforward retrofit and provides pilots with a simplified operation that will help reduce wear and tear on the helicopter while making flying in normal and adverse conditions much easier and safer for the crew and passengers,” Elvis Moniz, vice president of product development for StandardAero’s Helicopters business unit, said in a press statement. “Moreover, with the increase in EMS flying and recent CFIT related helicopter accidents, anything that can help pilots navigate more safely is of paramount interest.”
The 4-axis autopilot system reduces accidents by providing stability augmentation, attitude retention, and flight director modes, according to the release. The Advanced Control Management Systems improves flight handling qualities to ADS33 level 1 performance, Maria Mellouli, a media relations spokesperson for Thales, told Avionics International.
Melloui said the system has several automatic modes, approach to hover, all cruise modes, hover (VHLD), and position hold (PHLD) with radio-alt. The autopilot’s control panel feature also functions as a data concentrator by dispatching intelligence out of the linear actuators towards the compact autopilot system (CAPS) components.
“This product combines Thales’ Autopilot experience, based on billions of flight hours accumulated and outstanding customer satisfaction, with StandardAero’s extensive aftermarket capabilities in aircraft modification and certification,” Jean-Paul Ebanga, vice president of flight avionics activities at Thales, said in a press statement. “We aim to bring a user-friendly solution offering an unparalleled level of safety and reliability to the light helicopter market.”
The 4-axis autopilot system does not need a main flight control computer which allows the system weight to be greatly reduced, Mellouli said.
“In a nutshell, what makes our Compact AutoPilot System unique is its compact and light weight (no dedicated flight control computer needed), its high level of integrity and availability but beyond technical features it makes piloting simple and intuitive, reducing pilot workload,” Mellouli said.
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Gogo will shift its in-flight connectivity (IFC) focus to business aviation after completing the $400 million sale of its commercial aviation segment to Intelsat on Dec. 1.
Under their new structure, Chicago-based Gogo will continue to operate as a publicly traded company, focused on leveraging its air to ground (ATG) network and “proprietary spectrum to serve the business aviation market,” according to a Dec. 1 press release. North American business aviation operator usage of Gogo’s network has not recovered completely, however that segment of their customer base was able to restore 80 percent of its 2019 flight activity and in-flight Internet usage during the third quarter of 2020.
“In our third quarter earnings, we announced there were 5,577 aircraft flying today using the Gogo air-to-ground network – which today includes more than 1,500 aircraft flying with either Gogo AVANCE L5 or L3. We also announced we have 4,737 aircraft with satellite connectivity installed (primarily L-band),” a representative told Avionics International in an emailed statement.
Business aviation has been a quarter-by-quarter story for Gogo this year, as the company experienced 940 account suspensions and more than 750 service plan downgrades in March and April, which CEO Oakleigh Thorne described as the period where they “bottomed out” prior to an upswing in business aviation IFC service activations between April and September.
Next generation connectivity plans for Gogo’s business aviation division are centered around its 5G network deployment, scheduled to become available in 2021. Gogo describes its 5G service as a combination of unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum and beamforming technology in a new ATG network.
The 5G service will be enabled by a new antenna, modem and one additional line replaceable unit, according to Gogo. Satellite connectivity will remain an option for Gogo’s business aviation operators as well.
“We want to really invest in order to develop 5G and other new products to continue to strengthen the franchise,” Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne said during the company’s Nov. 9 third quarter earnings call.
“Gogo AVANCE L5 and Gogo 2Ku (satellite) provide streaming video service, and there are more than 1,000 AVANCE L5 systems installed and flying today,” Gogo’s representative said. “Additionally, AVANCE L5 is a line-fit option on more than 24 different makes and models at six aircraft OEMs, and more than 50 aircraft models are covered by full equipment STCs that have been developed by Gogo’s aftermarket channel.”
A number of personnel changes will occur along with the sale of the commercial aviation business to Intelsat. John Wade, president of Gogo’s Commercial Aviation division will remain in that position, as the CA business keeps the legacy branding with “Gogo, an Intelsat Company.”
Jon Cobin has been named Intelsat’s Chief Strategy Officer, leading the company’s corporate strategy and business development efforts. Cobin joins Intelsat from Gogo, where he served most recently as Chief Strategy Officer.
According to Intelsat, the satellite company will now be providing broadband connectivity for nine of the “top 20 global airlines and an installed base of more than 3,000 commercial aircraft are now part of Intelsat’s portfolio of services,” the company said in a Dec. 1 press release.
“The completion of the sale of our CA business to Intelsat marks the beginning of a new chapter for Gogo; we are a leader in business aviation and now turn our singular focus toward serving that attractive market,” Thorne said in a statement. “Our business aviation division has proven resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of business aircraft online today has nearly returned to January levels.”
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The British Army received its first two Boeing Apache AH-64E helicopters from the U.S. government on Nov. 26. The delivery is the result of a $2.3 billion deal that was first announced by the United Kingdom’s (UK) Ministry of Defense in July 2016, and includes a total of 50 Apache attack helicopters which will be replacing their Apache AH Mark 1 fleet retiring in 2024.
The Apache Attack helicopters were delivered to Wattisham Flying Station and will be maintained and serviced by the 7 Aviation Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Avn Spt Bn REME), according to a press release published by the British Army.
“While there is still some way to go before the Army’s modernized Attack Helicopter capability reaches full operational status, the arrival of the first Apache E Model in the UK is a major program milestone that has been achieved despite the impact of COVID-19,” Brigadier Steve Hussey, Head of Capability Air Maneuver, said in a press statement.
The Apache AH-64E’s will be equipped with Modernized Day-Side Assembly (M-DSA) to improve their ability to find and distinguish targets in full color and Fire Control Radar (FCR) software and targeting modes to increase range performance and utility in the Maritime domain and assist in counter unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) detection, according to a spokesperson from the Army. They will also use Link-16 and Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT) to increase situational awareness on the battlefield, enhance interoperability, and extend the Apache’s range.
“The arrival of the first Apache E Model Attack Helicopter to be delivered to the British Army over the next two years marks the beginning of a significant uplift in capability to enhance the Army’s contribution across the spectrum of military operations,” Maj Gen Jez Bennett, Director Capability, said in a press statement. “From supporting hostage rescue missions, to countering an adversaries’ anti-access, area denial platforms, the Apache E outstrips the outgoing Mark 1 aircraft by increased platform digitalization, improved weapons and avionics, and the ability to use the latest and future technology to enable teaming with semi-autonomous systems such as UASs.”
The British Army will also use System Level Embedded Diagnostics (SLED) to increase aircraft availability, improve engineering support, and reduce downtime, according to a spokesperson.
The Apache AH-64E will fly for the first time in the UK in July 2021 and will focus on trial activity and developing techniques to transition from the Mark 1 to E-model before full-rate conversion training.
“Bringing a new aircraft into service, especially one as impressive as the AH-64E is an exciting prospect that doesn’t happen every day,” Artificer Sergeant Major Brian Slinn, 7 Avn Spt Bn REME, said in a press statement. “The REME personnel from 7 Bn and 3 Regt AAC [3 Regiment Army Air Corps] understandably are chomping at the bit to finally get the process underway.”
The full Air System Safety Case will be tested before the Apache AH-64E’s first flight and will include quality assurance and airworthiness tasks by the 7 Bn, certification by the U.K. Military Aviation Authority, and assurance of aircraft documentation, simulators, training, and instructors, according to the release.
“As the Aviation Brigade grows towards its own Full Operating Capability in 2023, AH-64E will team with Wildcat and provide the backbone of its capability,” Brigadier Paul Tedman CBE, Commander 1 Aviation Brigade, said. “The next few years represent hugely exciting times for the Joint Helicopter Command and the Brigade.”
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Embraer is partnering with EDP, a Brazilian private energy company, to advance aviation energy storage and battery charging with an all-electric prototype aircraft, the EMB-203 Ipanema, set to take flight in 2021 using EDP’s energy storage and battery charging technologies, according to a Nov. 20 press release.
The partnership will look at how high voltage batteries can be used in electric propulsion systems for small aircraft. They will also research weight, efficiency and power quality, thermal control and management, cycling loading and unloading, and operational safety.
“EDP aims to lead the energy transition to a low carbon economy,” Miguel Setas, president of EDP in Brazil, said in a press statement. “Our partnership with Embraer in the development of the company’s first 100% electric demonstrator aircraft represents a new frontier for our investment in electric mobility, which helps to position Brazil as a leading player in this market.”
Embraer initially partnered with WEG in May of 2019 with a proposal for the development of this technology, according to the press release. In August of 2019 Embraer unveiled the EMB-203 Ipanema which used WEG’s electric motor and controller. The project was then developed with the goal of maturing electric and energy storing technologies for future uses. EDP has pledged to electrify its whole fleet by 2030 and develop new commercial solutions to promote energy transition.
“EDP aims to lead the energy transition to a low carbon economy,” Miguel Setas, president of EDP in Brazil, said in a press statement. “Our partnership with Embraer in the development of the company’s first 100% electric demonstrator aircraft represents a new frontier for our investment in electric mobility, which helps to position Brazil as a leading player in this market.”
The testing has been done at Embraer’s facilities in Botucau, which is in São Paulo, but the first flight will be at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto unit.
The U.S. subsidiary of Embraer, EmbraerX, partnered with Elroy Air in January to certify a hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft for unmanned cargo delivery.
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