Closing the Gap: A New Way of Using SwiftBroadband in Cabin, Cockpit

Cobham Satcom Aviator 300D. Photo courtesy of Cobham Satcom

While business and commercial aircraft operators already have expressed interest in the use of internet protocol (IP) for flight operations and maintenance purposes, the concept has not yet become widespread. At NBAA 2017, Avionics caught up with executives from two avionics OEMs, Avionica and Cobham Satcom, looking to help close the gap between cabin and cockpit connectivity.

Cobham Satcom, known for providing satellite communications hardware, and Avionica, known for manufacturing aircraft data collection and transmission hardware, have entered into a partnership to give business jet operators a path toward separating safety (FANS/CPDLC) and non-safety-related voice and data connectivity over a single channel of Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S). Inmarsat describes the SB-S network as a digital high-speed, secure IP broadband network capable of supporting up to 432 kbps per channel.

Under the partnership, Cobham’s Aviator 300D satellite communications system will provide a prioritized IP channel over which business jet operators can use safety services FANS and CPDLC messaging. The Aviator 300D is being combined with Avionica’s avWiFi intelligent router, which allows one channel to be used for cabin-based safety- and non-safety-related non-safety-related voice and data communications.

Andy Beers, director of aeronautical sales at Cobham Satcom, said the partnership builds off the Boeing 767 equipage the company provided to enable ACARS over IP communications for Hawaiian Airlines.

“Where the partnership for this on Avionica comes in is that in order for this to be an appealing product offering to the business jet market, they not only want to use it for cockpit services, they also want to use it for cabin connectivity,” Beers told Avionics.

Beers describes Aviator 300D as a class 7 terminal with an ACARS gateway. It’s capable of having software configured to convert ACARS messages to IP data and IP to ACARS. By combining it with Avionica’s avWiFi box, the same IP channel used by the operator can be separated to support cabin-based use of SB-S.

Cobham is currently in the process of developing its Aviator S solution, which would be capable of doing all of the above in one box, Beers said.

The next step is to upgrade the safety rating of Avionica’s avWiFi to a Level D rating.

“Part of that is to make sure there is a hardened partition, a firewall piece separating the safety side of the channel. We have to ensure that the antenna, receiver and everything being connected into the cockpit avionics are all secure,” said Reilly.

According to Cobham Satcom, the first certified solution could become available as a retrofit installation by the first quarter of 2018.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox