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More about CPDLC | Next-Gen aircraft communications providerBritish satellite communications network, Inmarsat, has announced the award of an ESA contract to develop the European requirements for next-generation aircraft communications and air traffic management.

Inmarsat will head a team constructed from more than 30 aviation industry companies to ensure operational efficiency for the program, which will focus on the improvement of data link communications using satellite technology.

Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, known simply as CPDLC, increases the efficiency of flights, and under the SESAR initiative, will allow operators access to approved routes which can also save fuel and flight time.

The introduction of CPDLC mandates by 2020 will relieve pilot and flight deck workload and greatly improve the congestion of European airspace, optimising route and airport capacity, and also reducing CO2 emissions.

More about CPDLC, from industry-leading Inmarsat partner-providers.

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Find out more about Inmarsat | Business Aviation NewsInmarsat, the British satellite company that sprang into the headlines earlier this year when they aided the search for lost Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, have said that they have conducted tests that show the possibilities for tracking flights at 15 minute intervals without the need for elevated costs.

The tests, conducted with Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia, highlighted that current technology is capable of identifying aircraft positioning every 15 minutes, effectively supporting the ICAO plan to scrap current 30-40 minute reporting intervals.

Inmarsat suggested that 15-minute reporting intervals are possible without raising costs, creating a ‘good balance’ between monitoring requirements, limitations of the system installed and the cost of operation.

Leading Providers of CPDLC for Commercial AviationAs a part of the Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) joint undertaking, the Iris Precursor Programme phase one completion takes Europe another step closer to its goal of creating the worlds most advanced air traffic management infrastructure.

Now, with phase one completed, another €7.6 million of funding will now be made available by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners to commence phase two, which will focus on the satellite network overlay.

ESA’s Iris Precursor Programme is operating in partnership with Inmarsat, the well-known British satellite company and will provide the means to streamline the current ATM system and allow aircraft to use Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) to its maximum efficiency, increasing safety significantly over Europe.

Inmarsat Satellite Communications Systems for Business AviationInmarsat, British satellite communications network is considering the possibility of becoming a direct provider of its integrated air-to-ground (ATG)-S band inflight connectivity service, soon to be launched in Europe. Currently, Inmarsat partners with resellers for its services.

Leo Mondale, Inmarsat president of aviation said, “Going direct is not a strategy or goal of ours per say, but we’re looking at a pretty dramatically changing environment when giant name brands in telecommunications are entering the business, and so there is much higher interest in adjacent markets like mobile communications to cause us to want to study the right way to go to the market.”

Although no fixed plans have been settled, Inmarsat are considering an industry sector that is consistently selling bundles, and following ViaSat’s decision to sell directly to airlines, partnering with Thales/LiveTV, the satellite giant is looking at the sector with a different set of eyes.

“We are actually just a connectivity provider,” says Mondale. We don’t build equipment, and we don’t want to sell content. Our bundle is multiple connectivity platforms, given to the right geography, irrespective of what type of aircraft or how big a fleet. That makes us different because we’re not saying ‘buy IFE and we’ll give you connectivity for free’. We say ‘you decide, and we want to give you the best connectivity.”

Inmarsat are in no hurry to make a decision, and are considering all their options. Current reseller partnerships will not be affected.

Aircraft SATCOM Security ConcernsBritish satellite company, Inmarsat, have responded to SATCOM security concerns raised by cyber security expert, Ruben Santamara, principal security consultant from IOActive Security Services at the Black Hat conference last month, following the publication of a security vulnerabilities white paper.

Santamara explained that some SATCOM systems have vulnerabilities that could allow hackers access to aircraft systems and backed up his claims with proof of how he was able to gain access to Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband SATCOMS through ‘backdoors’. “If we can compromise the SDU,” he said, “we can access the MCDU through the Arinc 429 bus. We can finally reach a critical device in the cockpit.”

Ken Bantoft, vice-president of SATCOM technology and development at SATCOM Direct, argued that the 429 bus has read-only access to the bus, delivering position reporting data and said “You cannot inject data. Transmit and receive are on independent buses. At worst you know where you are.”

Inmarsat emailed their response in terms of SATCOM systems connections and said, “This is really a question that should be directed to the airframe manufacturers. Cyber security on the internal aircraft and network buses is something that airframe manufacturers take very seriously. They have their own stringent cyber-security requirements so that the bus design and avionics connected are implemented in such a way that makes the breaches like the one outlined by IOActive an impossibility.”

Rockwell Collins, who recently signed an agreement with Inmarsat as a value-added reseller of systems said, “Today’s certified avionics systems are designed and built with very high levels of redundancy and security. Simulating these conditions in a lab or virtual environment is not analogous to certified aircraft and systems operating in regulated airspace. The security of these systems is a top priority that we are addressing through collaboration with industry regulators, customers and suppliers. In addition to meeting today’s security needs, we have ongoing research in enhanced security features to respond to evolving security threats.”

Global Flight Support Services ProvidersInmarsat, the British satellite company that suggested the new search area for flight MH370, has offered its current customers free basic aircraft tracking in light of the tragedy.

Inmarsat have 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft amongst its customers, equipped with their satellite technology and have made their offer as an immediate address to the subject of aircraft tracking that has graced many boardroom tables since the aircraft was reported missing.

“This offer responsibly, quickly and at little or no cost to the industry, addresses in part the problem brought to light by the recent tragic events around MH370,” said Inmarsat CEO, Rupert Pearce.

In addition, Inmarsat have discussed the provision of an ‘in-cloud black box’ system that would be capable of streaming historic and real-time flight data, including cockpit voice recording. The ICAO will be taking these discussions further during the meeting in Montreal this week to discuss the technological requirements for the provision of the necessary equipment to ensure that the tragic events of MH370 are not repeated.

A set of standards are expected to be released following these talks, which will be attended by more than 40 representatives of all areas of aviation, airports, ATS and airlines.

Aircraft Internet to Go Beyond Passenger CommunicationsExpanding communications bandwidth may soon broaden the horizons for aircraft internet that pass way beyond passenger connectivity. With increasing computer technology, greater bandwidth and storage capacity, the ability for aircraft to use data sharing and facilitate decision-making with web-based applications brings it all a step closer.

Inmarsat, a British satellite network operator, is a huge name already in aviation, using the far-reaching capabilities of the network for aircraft communications in L-band services. Honeywell is currently working with Inmarsat on the development of the avionics for the new generation of Global Xpress satellites that will operate in Ka-band. Ka-band will bring faster data rates and widen the possibilities for streaming and allowing operators to think ahead of passenger communications.

Honeywell have completed the critical design reviews for Global Xpress and will begin testing this month. The first of three Inmarsat-5 satellites was launched late last year and the rest are expected to be in place by early next year.