Aviation powerhouses pioneering commercial broadband for airline operations

Pilots en route to their destination could in little more than a decade be talking to their airline control centre through commercial broadband networks as part of a blueprint for overhauling the aviation data communication landscape by 2035.

It is just one aspect of a joint initiative involving the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, and both major airframers Airbus and Boeing which constitutes a major rethink on aviation connectivity.

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Today, aviation connectivity is supported by a set of technologies that rely to a large extent on VHF datalink and on first generation aviation SATCOM connectivity. “While these technologies have served the aviation community well for decades, they are in need for upgrade and for more harmonisation,” said the EU/US task force White Paper Future Connectivity For Aviation.

The joint vision is one that combines aviation specific solutions  such as VHF datalink and higher performance L-band SATCOM that will offer guaranteed safety and performance with commercial, non-aviation specific solutions that are expected to provide for high capacity and economic efficiency.

The first key objective was that the future connectivity landscape must provide the required safety, security and performance levels as well as sufficient capacity. The second was to adopt state of the art and future-proof technologies to support global economic efficiency.

“A further aim was to make efficient usage of the bandwidth spectrum already assigned to aviation, without needing to request additional spectrum,” said the authors.

The four members of the initiative said they will now engage with the wider community – including ICAO, as well as regulators, standards organisations, manufacturers, operators, air navigation service providers and communication service providers – to build together a safe, high performance and harmonised connectivity future for aviation.

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