Kymeta could be years away from bringing its products to the aviation market, although it made big strides developing relationships with train and bus operators in 2017. Steve Sybeldon, the company’s VP of business development and sales, told Avionics sister publication Via Satellite that while Kymeta still has its eye on aviation, it does not expect to launch a product for commercial use for “several years.”
Although the company’s antenna design is quite appropriate for planes, Sybeldon noted that aviation comes with its own set of environmental challenges, such as wider temperature ranges, as well as regulatory speed bumps.
“The advantages of the Kymeta product [are that] it’s flat, it’s light, and there are no moving parts. To an aircraft operator that means less weight that they’re carrying, less drag because it’s lower profile, and … less maintenance, which is all very valuable in aviation.” Sybeldon said. “But it would take us longer to qualify our product to have it installed and operational on the aircraft. Beyond that … we have [to get] FAA certification.”
Sybeldon said he believes the total opportunity in aviation, while sizable, is much less than in trains or buses or other maritime or land mobile markets. In 2017, Kymeta took the first steps to cracking the land mobile market, deploying its electronically steered flat panel antennas (FPA) to its first few customers in countries scattered across the globe. In the year ahead, Kymeta plans to build that momentum into fully fledged connectivity services for bus and rail operators, according to Sybeldon.
He clarified that Kymeta is focusing less on municipal public transportation and more on long-distance travel providers. “Buses and light rail — anything that operates within a large metropolitan area — generally has access to other options, whether that’s LTE through terrestrial systems or some form of Wi-Fi,” Sybeldon said. “We’re looking beyond that to regional transit buses and certainly trains.”
According to Sybeldon, one of Kymeta’s major goals in 2017 was to expose its product to a wide group of potential end users, particularly those who hadn’t been able to use satellite in the past. Throughout the year, the company deployed its first few assets to a range of regions and markets, equipping vehicles used for public transportation, agriculture and mining. Now, the company plans to build up its relationship with customers that “have an appetite for a much larger volume of units,” Sybeldon said.
As such, the company is beginning to transition from a focus on research and development to one on operation and installation. Internally, Sybeldon said the company is hiring more employees to interface with customers, and is moving away from an “engineering-centric” position.
This article was originally published by Via Satellite, an Avionics sister publication. It has been edited.