Era Group AW139. File photo
Whirring rotor blades have hung up effective satellite communications for helicopters, but companies like Honeywell are making advances on beaming data through the whirling metal.
During a Honeywell-sponsored webinar on trends in rotorcraft connectivity hosted by Rotor & Wing International, the company discussed the 650 kpbs system it has in hand and said it is testing solutions with significantly larger throughput — up to seven megabytes per second of bandwidth.
Discussing the company’s Aspire 200 satcom connectivity system, Rob Richardson, Honeywell's business manager for commercial helicopters, said the high data rate capability software upgrade for the system, which pushes its connectivity speed from approximately 432 kpbs per channel to 650, is “really the secret sauce that’s allowing this data to be driven or pass through the rotor blades.”
“There’s varying speeds … dependent upon which antenna you use as well as what helicopter you use because the length of the rotor blade, the width of the rotor blades, how many rotor blades you have, has an impact on what kind of bandwidth you’re going to get,” Richardson said.
And Honeywell is testing faster solutions.
“There are other boxes that could be anywhere from a megabyte up to even … a very latest-and-greatest one that we’re testing now can give you seven megabytes per second of bandwidth,” Richardson added.
Coverage isn’t quite worldwide, Richardson noted, as it relies on the Inmarsat constellation of six satellites at the equator.
“So does it work everywhere in the world? Uh, the answer’s no," he said. "If you’re at the North or South Pole, you’re probably not going to have the right line of sight angle to reach the satellite sitting at the Equator. But for, you know, 90 to 95 percent of the operations that are happening in a helicopter environment, it would be able to satisfy your needs."
Honeywell currently holds STC approvals for the connectivity system for the AW139, AS350, UH-60 Black Hawk and Bell 429 helicopter airframes.
The webinar also featured speakers from MASCO Corporation, which partners with Honeywell on the Sky Connect Tracker series of mission management systems, and Truth Data Insights, which offers data analytics solutions for health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) and other purposes.
To view the webinar, click here.