Following the signing of a joint development agreement (JDA), OneWeb and GDC Advanced Technology will develop an inflight connectivity terminal. This will enable airlines to connect aircraft, passengers and crew over OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communication network.
The relationship builds on 18 months of research completed in partnership with satellite operators and a leading airline.
The new terminal is based on the electronically steered antenna technology developed by Ball Aerospace. The terminal has already undergone early lab and ground testing at the GDC facilities in Fort Worth, Texas. Initial flight testing is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022, and certification is expected in early 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 inflight connectivity to aviation users everywhere – regardless of the size of aircraft they fly on,” said Ben Griffin, vice president of mobility at OneWeb.
OneWeb plans to support commercial, regional, business and government aviation users. The terminal will initially be available in two sizes – a traditional ARINC 791 format for larger commercial airliners, and a smaller installation suitable for regional jets, single-aisle and business aviation platforms.
The GDC terminals for OneWeb are designed to be lighter and smaller than existing aviation antennas, with an attenuated aerodynamic profile to produce virtually no drag. The antenna is sealed and contains no moving parts. The system is designed for ease of maintainability, with four simple Line Replacement Units (LRUs), any of which can be replaced in less than 30 minutes.
The terminals have also been engineered to allow airlines to deploy a hybrid LEO/GEO connectivity solution. OneWeb expects this to be a key differentiator as airlines initially embrace and become confident in the performance of their new LEO technologies.
“We were thrilled by the performance of the terminal during ground testing earlier this year,” said Tracy Trent, president, 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.”
The agreement includes development of installation certification (STCs) for several aircraft types, and pursuit of line-fit offers with major airframe manufacturers.