SkyFive, Flightcell International and Sequans Communications have debuted a new airborne communications device enabled with air-to-ground (A2G) technology. Aside from commercial aircraft operators, A2G technology also provides public safety agencies with reliable broadband connectivity in the sky, enabling them to conduct effective airborne missions, a capability increasingly required on helicopters and light aircraft.
A2G provides reliable coverage and capacity to aerial users, and it overcomes the current limitations of today's terrestrial networks and satellite systems as used for airborne applications. Terrestrial networks can be used only at low altitudes and are limited in performance, consistency and security; satellite systems are limited in bandwidth, and are very costly and difficult to install, especially on rotorcraft.
To remove these limitations and enable airborne communications devices of any kind to connect to A2G networks, SkyFive and Sequans have developed a postage stamp-sized A2G modem that ensures a reliable, secure and always-on A2G communications link, and it can be integrated into airborne devices with minimal effort.
Flightcell's DZMx is the first device to use this new technology. With a weight of less than 800g, the compact DZMx can be fitted easily into any aircraft. To date, Flightcell has shipped more than 3000 DZMx units into all major aviation markets. DZMx has a modular design, allowing the A2G module to flexibly combine with other means of data transmission.
The complete solution has been thoroughly and successfully tested with Australian A2G network operator Pivotel, which deployed A2G base stations on several towers in the greater Sydney area in 2022. These tests fully confirmed the predicted throughput, latency, reliability and consistency of the solution in a real environment. Subject to regulatory approval and other ongoing conversations, Pivotel plans to further extend the current A2G network during 2023.
SkyFive CCO Dirk Lindemeier says: “This new product underlines our commitment to developing an entire ecosystem of A2G terminals, thereby maximising the addressable market and giving choice to aircraft operators. The A2G module represents a further milestone reached in miniaturising the technology and making aircraft installation easy. We look forward to seeing entirely new aircraft types connecting to our networks very soon.”
Flightcell director James Mace adds: “Our customers strongly demand reliable broadband connectivity for various use cases. By introducing the option to configure DZMx with an A2G module we open up new possibilities for operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft that are flying air ambulance, aerial firefighting, law enforcement and other missions, as well as light business aircraft, both for our large installed base and new deliveries.”
Sequans senior director, business development David Choukroun says: “We are thrilled to contribute our technology to this ground-breaking achievement with SkyFive and Flightcell. The A2G module will enable a multitude of new and exciting airborne communications applications, and the module's high performance capabilities, including ultra large cell range and the ability to operate reliably at the high speed of aircraft, meet the most demanding avionics requirements.”