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Helo Operators Want Ground-Like Comms Links, Ability to Downlink Ops Data, Flightcell Says

By James T. McKenna | September 22, 2017

Flightcell Aircraft Tracker

Photo courtesy of Flightcell International

Flightcell International has identified two significant trends emerging for rotorcraft communications, said the Port Nelson, New Zealand-based company, which is exhibiting at Helitech Booth F120.

First, commercial operators want to connect their smart devices and use them like they do on the ground, said Flightcell Vice President James Mace. Second, they want to send operational data off the aircraft.

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“Connecting smart devices wirelessly to onboard equipment is achieved using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with the intention of accessing the internet or sending and receiving files, text messages and emails,” said Mace. “The limiting factor, as always, is the air-to-ground communications link. Unless the aircraft has wideband satellite equipment, which has very high capital and operating expenses, narrowband satellite communications options won’t have the bandwidth to extend and imitate ground-based services.”

By contrast, Mace argued, “in our experience operators spend on average 75 to 90% of the time in range of cellular networks, and high-gain antennas mounted underneath the aircraft provide enhanced reception — when compared to the reception from smart devices enclosed within the airframe.”

Flightcell International is a global producer of airborne integrated-mobile communications, providing satellite and cellular data, voice and tracking to more than 3,500 commercial and military aircraft worldwide.

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