Avionica’s New Terminal Makes Dual-dissimilar Satcom Possible

June 18, 2019 | by Matt Thurber
Avionica is developing a new airborne satcom terminal that works on Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband network. The new terminal, expected to be certified next year, will give operators an alternative to Iridium-based satcom. It offers much faster service, claims the company, along with the operational and safety communications provided by Avionica’s satcom terminals.


SwiftBroadband operates in the L-band, which suffers less interference due to weather conditions versus higher-speed Ku- and Ka-band networks, explained Sean Reilly, vice president of business development for Avionica, a GE Aviation (Chalet 144) company. Compared to the original Block 1 Iridium network, which offers system speeds of up to 2,400 bits per second (bps), SwiftBroadband offers more than 300 Kbps. “It’s drastically faster,” he said, “about 100 times faster.”


Reilly explained that the higher speed makes it easier to move larger amounts of data on and off the aircraft, including engine information, weather data, along with operational and safety communications. “We start making that a really connected aircraft,” he said.


Avionica is planning to develop a satcom terminal for the new Iridium Next satellite network that will operate at much higher speeds than Block 1. However, many operators prefer the opportunity to have dual-dissimilar satcom terminals.


With one Iridium- and one SwiftBroadband-based terminal on board, it might soon be possible to remove both high-frequency radios that are required for oceanic routes. “There is a movement toward that,” Reilly said. “Part of that is getting in front of that [with these new products] and providing a dual-dissimilar product that fits in our architecture.”


The SwiftBroadband terminal will be about the same size as Avionica’s four-channel Block 1 Iridium system, which is two inches high, nearly four inches wide and seven inches long.


An advantage of Avionica’s terminals is that these can be mounted close to the aircraft’s external antenna, then connected via lightweight Ethernet cable to Avionica’s Aircraft Interface Device installed in the electronics bay near the flight deck. “This minimizes weight and [allows] ease of installation,” Reilly said.


Avionica also announced it has received EASA supplemental type certificate (STC) approval for its miniQAR MkIII quick access recorder, avRDC remote data concentrator, and avCM 4G cellular module. The STC makes it easier for operators in most of the world to install these products without having to go through the extra work getting a local engineer to create a data package and submit paperwork to EASA. “In a retrofit market, having an STC is very much appreciated by the airlines,” said Reilly.


To help customers maintain secure communications, Avionica has also received FAA approval for cybersecure connectivity and application hosting for its aviONS onboard network server. This STC is expected to be validated soon by EASA. The aviONS system is an open-architecture design, and it bridges three aircraft domains while preventing security breaches.


“We provide a cybersecurity layer,” Reilly said, “and give the airline the ability to get a date from the control domain [for example, GPS information] and pull it into the airline services domain, and even pass it to the passenger services domain for satcom to move off the airplane.”


Another benefit of aviONS is that it allows operators to securely upload Arinc 615 navigation database updates directly into the avionics, instead of using antiquated floppy discs and a data loader. This can be done via cellular service or even satcom and can even be set up for older aircraft without a data loader. “It meets all FAA and EASA requirements around cybersecurity parameters,” he said.