Following 18 months of research completed in partnership with an undisclosed airline, OneWeb and GDC Advanced Technology (GDC) have signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) regarding the creation of a compact in-flight connectivity (IFC) terminal that will enable airlines to connect their aircraft with OneWeb’s Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network.
The terminal is based on electronically steered antenna technology developed by Ball Aerospace and has already undergone early lab and ground testing at GDC’s facilities in Fort Worth, Texas. It will initially be available in two sizes – a traditional ARINC 791 for larger commercial aircraft and a smaller version for regional and single-aisle aircraft as well as business jets.
Smaller and lighter than existing aviation terminals, GDC’s terminals for OneWeb have an attenuated aerodynamic profile that produces virtually no drag, significantly reducing fuel burn compared with current fuselage-mounted antennas. Furthermore, they are sealed and contain no moving parts, making them extremely reliable with no risk of fluid ingress.
They have been engineered to allow airlines to deploy a hybrid LEO/GEO connectivity solution and designed with ease of maintainability in mind. Each one is made up of four Line Replacement Units (LRUs), any of which can be replaced in less than 30 minutes.
“We were thrilled by the performance of the terminal during ground testing earlier this year,” commented Tracy Trent, president at GDC Advanced Technology. “The terminal was able to unlock the full capabilities of the OneWeb network. We are on track to have the system airborne in early 2022 and continue the path to certification, implementation, and ultimately to bring this game-changing technology to our aviation customers and their passengers in 2023.”
“This agreement with GDC Advanced Technology represents a major milestone for OneWeb as we accelerate our plans to bring globally consistent and game-changing in-flight connectivity to aviation users everywhere, regardless of the size of aircraft they fly on,” said Ben Griffin, VP Mobility at OneWeb.
GDC Advanced Technology has also developed a next-generation terminal for Inmarsat’s GX Aviation service that includes a flat panel antenna developed by ThinKom Solutions. SAUDIA was announced as the terminal’s launch customer at the 2021 Dubai Air Show and will introduce the solution on its Airbus A321neo and Airbus A321XLR aircraft in late 2022.