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Boeing Low-Profile In-Flight Broadband Antenna Clears Key Test Hurdles

Boeing has completed environmental and performance qualification testing on the aircraft satellite communications low-profile phased array antenna system it is developing for multipurpose satellite operator Al Yah Satellite Company (Yahsat) of the United Arab Emirates.

The aircraft manufacturer indicates that this antenna system has passed customer-witnessed acceptance testing, and that the antenna’s required data transfer rate was validated in over-the-air satellite tests.

“These milestones complete the qualification efforts for our most advanced aeronautical antenna leveraging expertise from across Boeing in designing and integrating antennas systems for customer aircraft,” said Paul Geery, Vice President for Command, Control and Communications Solutions. “The result is a low-profile SATCOM solution that provides en-route broadband connectivity for many types of aircraft.”

Boeing intends its low-profile low-drag antenna system to fit the needs of military and commercial customers looking for an advanced in-flight communications solution. These aircraft-qualified, low-profile, low-drag antenna, are easily installed, Boeing states, and would be used to send and receive data between airborne and ground terminals.

As Boeing explains: “The system employs steerable phased array technology, meaning the antenna uses electronics and not mechanical components to track a satellite, even when mounted on moving aircraft.”

The Yahsat contract calls for Boeing to deliver the first of eight low-profile antenna systems later this year for installation on various aircraft.

In-Flight Connectivity Satellite Antenna development is a costly venture for any competitor in this market.  All competitors must pass a series of test hurdles, and meet certification requirements, before their antennae can be installed on the production line.

Final approval to line-fit any antennae is the responsibility of the aircraft manufacturer, something manufacturers will only do once all their technical requirements are met.  Further, line-fit approval can be specific to an aircraft type; requiring separate approval processes for other aircraft.

For these reasons, many of the antennae currently installed on aircraft are installed after the aircraft exit the production line (retro-fit).

The extra work to retro-fit antennae on aircraft can delay an aircraft’s entry to service and generate additional costs.

Featured Image: Boeing engineers Stephanie Mount and Chuck Renneberg examine the low-profile phased array antenna (in foreground) and related components that make up Boeing’s new system to deliver broadband to aircraft in flight./Boeing

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