Connectivity, including onboard Wi-Fi, satellite connectivity solutions, in-flight mobile phone use and personal electronic device use, is ruled by geography, airport infrastructure, airline models and regulatory and economic frameworks, according to experts. We will take a look at the status of these drivers to learn where the industry is, how it drives growth in the market and what is next for connectivity within the aviation industry.
Delta says it is not wavering in its commitment to innovation, even during the pandemic. The airline’s latest collaboration with Apple and AT&T brings forward a the goal improved connectivity. They say it will be “built upon technology and rooted in humanity.” Beginning late this summer, all Delta flight attendants will be equipped with the powerful and capable iPhone 12, paired with AT&T’s cutting-edge 5G network.
“Our flight attendants are the finest professionals taking to the skies day in and day out, so when we were looking for outstanding products that meet the Delta standard, Apple and AT&T were top of mind,” said Allison Ausband, S.V.P. – In-Flight Service. “This relationship is a step toward the future of a more connected and human onboard experience.”
Equipped with many enhancements, Delta says iPhone 12 with SkyPro will open the door to features that can transform the everyday job of Delta’s flight attendants, both on and off the aircraft. For example, the Apple-designed A14 Bionic — the fastest chip in a smartphone — can deliver a seamless augmented reality (AR) experience to empower flight attendants with in-the-moment information to assist with:
Training: With policies frequently shifting due to the pandemic, flight attendant training and information is more critical than ever. With AT&T 5G on the ground and iPhone 12 in-hand, flight attendants will have increasing access to immersive training including videos, photos and AR on the go, just about everywhere.
Catering: A paper-based process today, flight attendants will soon have up to the minute digital catering inventory and be able to quickly locate items without opening a single door, using the camera on iPhone 12 and augmented reality to visualize where items are stowed.
As accelerating vaccination rates drive renewed demand for travel and human connection, Delta is prepared to embrace our customers once again with an experience even better than the one they knew before the pandemic.
Delta Air Lines and Sabre announced a global distribution agreement that will evolve their long-standing partnership on May 3, 2021. The airline hopes it will drive change in the travel industry through commercial and technological innovation. The new, value-based, multi-year distribution agreement represents a model that creates value for the entire travel ecosystem, including travel agencies and travelers.
“Our vision is to shift the mindset of the entire ecosystem toward modern retailing, selling customers what they want, where they want it and how they want it across all channels,” said Delta’s Jeff Lobl, managing director – Global Distribution. “We are grateful to Sabre for their innovative and pioneering spirit in taking this journey with Delta and establishing a new and exciting path forward for third-party distribution.”
Aligning the interests of the global travel marketplace, the companies expect the innovative distribution agreement to transform the way travel partners do business – ensuring Sabre-connected travel buyers continue to have access to Delta’s content globally and enabling Delta to continue to extend its reach with Sabre’s valuable network of global travel buyers.
Delta says its “omni-channel, customer-centric approach invests across all channels to build experiences and capabilities to provide consumers with an elevated shopping experience in their preferred channel.” This new approach to retail will create value for all stakeholders in the ecosystem by enhancing traveler experiences and offering customer choice.
“Sabre is on a journey to create a new marketplace for personalized travel. Technology innovation combined with collaborative partnerships are key to realizing our vision,” said Wade Jones, chief product officer for Sabre Travel Solutions. “This new agreement is one example of that partnership philosophy, and our innovation to transform our storefront experience reinforces this by ensuring Delta and Sabre’s mutual customers can shop with confidence and see the value of the offerings available to them.”
The New Airline Storefront, developed by Sabre in collaboration with Delta, CWT and other thought-leading partners, is now fully available in Sabre Red 360 and provides digital “shelves” that better organize an airline’s offerings in a side-by-side display to enhance the traveler’s shopping experience – driving value for both sellers and buyers across the travel ecosystem.
“Sabre’s new airline storefront and rich content makes it easier to understand new airline product offerings and simplifies the purchasing decision. CWT is a strong supporter of a collaborative approach to address an improved user experience for our counselors; equating to a better trip planning experience for the traveler,” said Erik Magnuson, VP – Product Management, Mobility & Payments for CWT. “We see the storefront as another big step in providing the best value and personalization our customers demand.”
Rita Visser, director – Global Travel Sourcing & GPO for Oracle, added, “We are excited about this agreement and expect the underlying innovation to simplify the booking process and significantly improve the experience for our travelers.”
This continued focus on innovation demonstrates advancements in Delta’s strategy across all channels, building experiences and capabilities that provide consumers with an elevated shopping experience in their preferred channel of choice.
“Both our new GDS approach with Sabre and their transformative new storefront are two important steps forward in evolving the retail shopping experience for travelers while creating value for all stakeholders across the ecosystem,” said Lobl. “By focusing on value, travelers will benefit from greater choice and visibility to all product offerings while corporations will benefit from their travelers being more comfortable in their preferred booking channel and within their travel policies.”
Harbour Industries, a Marmon | Berkshire Hathaway company announced they have achieved qualification to MIL-DTL-25038/3 from the US Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency. With a continuous operating temperature rating up to 260 C, AeroPOWER Firezone M25038/3 wire and cable are high-temp solutions for harsh environments such as aircraft engines.
Harbour’s QPL includes gauge sizes 22 through 12, with color code options per the MIL-DTL-25038 slant sheet. These flight critical cables meet or exceed the industry standards for weight and space as well as remaining fire resistant for fifteen minutes at 2000 F.
“We are pleased to add this key Mil-Spec approval. Harbour Industries continues to be a trusted source for aerospace wire and cable. With this latest QPL we can now support critical firezone applications,” said Robert Canny, president.
Harwell, UK-based Helix Technologies, developer of antennas for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems), announced it has completed a significant investment round led by the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), managed by Midven, supported by Helix’s existing shareholders and incoming private investors. The funding round is geared at rapid growth as.
Helix commences manufacture of its precision GNSS antennas Following successful participation in Wayra’s Intelligent Mobility program and venture capital investor Seraphim’s Space Camp in 2020, Helix has generated strong industry and investor networks, and anticipates accelerated growth in 2021 and beyond.
Helix says the funding round will enable to strengthen its engineering team, build its IP portfolio and launch its first commercial antenna products in mid-2021. It will also provide the foundation from which Helix can raise further investment to start scale-up to mass production.
“We’re delighted to have the Midven team and the UKI2S fund onboard as an investor in Helix. We are now able to confidently demonstrate our technology to lead customers in defense, aerospace and automotive sectors, and anticipate moving forward into production of our super-accurate GNSS antennas,” said James Lewis, CEO of Helix.
“We believe this is an important strategic investment for the UK which will unlock safe, autonomous mobility,” Andy Muir, director at Midven, added. “Helix’s location at our partner Harwell Campus, home to the Harwell Space Cluster, is perfect to aid their growth.”
These are transformational times for the aerospace connections industry – the people who make connectors, interconnects, wiring, cables and everything else associated with integrating aircraft systems. Trends such as alternative propulsion systems, the never-ending pressure to build aircraft equipment that is smaller and lighter, and increasing data throughput demands for avionics and other onboard systems are confronting this industry with new and unique challenges.
The Alternative Propulsion Trend
The development of eVTOLs (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) helicopters and other electrically-powered aircraft is captivating the aerospace connections industry.
“Propulsion electrification within aviation is a really exciting trend,” said Jim Carothers, product manager with W. L. Gore & Associates, an aerospace wire and cable manufacturer whose products are being used in NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars. “But it’s not only propulsion that is going electric: Capabilities that are historically associated with hydraulics and mechanics are transitioning to electric sources. This is driving a need for a whole new wave of interconnects to be able to support those capabilities.”
“There’s obviously a big push to truly electric aircraft,” agreed Jeff Behlendorf, director of Product Management with Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CarlisleIT), a manufacturer of high-performance cables (including fiber optics) and wire. “This includes cabling and products that can handle much higher voltages, which is a technical challenge at high altitudes and low pressures. We have to deal with corona effects and arc tracking in that environment that don’t necessarily occur on the ground.”
Corona effects and arc tracking are just two of the issues affecting electric aircraft that have to be dealt with. The safe management of high voltage connections between storage batteries and aircraft engines is another challenge to be tackled. So is the impact that these high voltage pathways may have on aircraft low voltage systems while aloft.
That’s not all. “We have to consider options such as using plated copper versus aluminum due to weight considerations,” said Robert Moore, global specialist and principal engineer with TE Connectivity, a designer/builder of connectivity and sensor products for harsh environments. “We also have to think about the insulation systems for these high voltage wires at the temperatures and altitudes planned for eVTOL flight.”
“As well, we have to make sure that we are using materials that meet the stringent requirements of smoke toxicity and flammability for the aerospace market,” Moore added. “We can’t use the same materials that one would find in an automobile or in a house, because something goes wrong in an aircraft, it has to be able to descend from altitude safely in response, and the passengers/crew have to be able to see where the exits are when it lands.”
“Really, the biggest challenge is dealing with high voltage,” concluded Michael Traskos. He is president and CEO of Lectromec, a company focussed on the assessment and certification of aircraft wiring systems. “This requirement is being driven by ‘Green initiatives’ aimed at reducing aircraft pollution by going electric. It is certainly the biggest trend affecting the aerospace connections industry today.”
Smaller, Lighter, Tougher
The restricted space within airframes, plus the fact that every extra ounce of equipment cuts payload capacity and uses more fuel, is why connections manufacturers have always been under pressure to cut the size and weight of their products. Meanwhile, the fact that aircraft environments encompass wide ranges of temperatures and air pressures means that connections equipment has to be rugged and durable as well.
“We’re always working on reducing ‘SWaP’, which stands for Size, Weight and Power,” said Matt McAlonis, an engineering fellow (Aerospace) with TE Connectivity. “After all, if you consider a ‘hot’ market like space, it costs about $10,000 per pound to launch something.”
Granted, the per pound cost is lower in atmospheric flight, but it is still enough to motivate companies like TE Connectivity to investigate new and better ways to reduce SWaP. This why the company is exploring ‘Generative Design’, where a proposed piece of connective equipment is ‘SWaP-optimized’ using 3D modelling software before manufacturing ever occurs.
“We call these scanned items ‘organic shapes’,” McAlonis said. “Sometimes those organic shapes have to be 3D-printed, because they’re so different than the traditional shapes produced using machines.”
There are other ways available to reduce SWaP. Consider the case of Compulink Cable Assemblies (a division of kSARIA), a build-to-print contract manufacturer specializing in cable assembly and harnesses for the military environment. According to Brian Mahoney, the company’s vice president Marketing, “we have seen an increase in our military customer base incorporating molded strain reliefs into their tactical applications. This is because molded strain reliefs can often reduce cost, size, and provide for better environmental sealing over traditional offerings.”
Overall, “the connections industry is moving towards higher density, smaller footprints offering space and weight savings,” Mahoney observed. “In addition, we are starting to see end users position towards custom-manufactured cables to better meet their next higher assembly application requirements and to reduce size, weight and to improve manufacturability.”
Balancing Swap and Safety
The quest to reduce SWaP is the connections industry’s Holy Grail. “If you can have a nice full light wiring system, then it’s a huge win,” said Traskos. “Yet at the same time, light wiring can run counter to what’s necessary to ensure a safe wiring system. For instance, high voltage electrical systems need to have thicker insulation to prevent any sort of degradation during those long-term full-power exposures – even though this adds weight.”
At W. L. Gore & Associates, the goal is to hit all these marks without compromise. “We can help those systems reduce SWaP by delivering interconnections that are very small and very flexible, in temperature and environmentally resistant packages,” Carothers said.
Nevertheless, the need to provide aircraft with redundant critical systems limits how much SWaP can be imposed on them – and vice versa. “With redundancy comes extra weight,” said McAlonis. “And if you try to supply triple redundancy in a critical system, you end up with a diminishing return: You may be safe, but now you’re too heavy to fly your mission. As a result, you have to be willing to take calculated risks in order to balance reduced SWaP with a degree of redundancy. That’s just the reality of the situation.”
The Trend for More Data Throughput
Today’s aircraft have become ‘flying data farms’ with substantial amounts of information flowing between their digitally-controlled components. Add the need to share this data with ground-based Flight Operations, and the demand for high data throughout is on the rise. This demand is only heightened when one factors in onboard broadband communications for crew and passengers alike.
Responding to the trend for more data throughput is a top priority for connections manufacturers. As a result, “you’ll see companies like CarlisleIT spending a lot of time on advanced connectivity solutions that are focussed on getting more data around and on-and-off the airplane,” said Behlendorf. “Supporting broadband communications with Flight Operations and on behalf of the crew/passengers requires higher speed backbones onboard that use 10-100 Gbps data lines.”
High data demands are common on the newest aircraft in service, but they are also turning up on older models as owners bring them up to modern standards. “These data-driven systems help pilots and their crews make better-informed decisions while in flight,” Carothers said. This is why connections that can support high data throughput are becoming a must for aircraft of all ages.
Copper and Fiber Optics
Traditionally, connections manufacturers have provisioned data carriage using copper wires. However, the large capacity demands of modern integrated aircraft are convincing many manufacturers to move to fiber optic cabling systems. Basically, they are applying ground-based fiber optic designs that support multi-gigabit IP networks to fulfill similar needs in the air.
“We are seeing a trend in both military and commercial aerospace where OEMs are migrating away from heavy copper cables used in data communication applications and replacing them with light weight fiber optic solutions,” said Paul Jortberg. He is executive vice president of Business Development at kSARIA, a designer/manufacturer/integrator of aerospace fiber optic and electrical interconnect solutions.
This migration is being driven by Next Gen radar technology and other bandwidth-intensive applications, Jortberg explained. “We are also seeing a shift to high density fiber optic connectors in aerospace applications and a shift to fiber optic flex circuits in a wide variety of backplane applications,” he said. “Fiber Optic Flex Circuits provide for high density routing of fiber optic channels on a flexible substrate for backplanes and systems that require high density optical interconnects.”
Jortberg’s distinction about fiber optics being used for bandwidth-intensive applications is noteworthy, because different aircraft have different levels of data throughput requirements. This is why there is still room for copper in some onboard environments, and why connections manufacturers are maintaining capabilities in both technologies.
At CarlisleIT, “whether we select copper or fiber depends on what the customer needs,” said Behlendorf. “Either way, we’re supporting them with very high-density interconnect solutions that allow people to push that data around the aircraft.”
The Connectors Companies Mentioned in This Article
Known as ‘CarlisleIT’, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies designs, builds, tests, certifies and delivers interconnect solutions for customers in the Aerospace, Military, Space, Test and Measurement, Industrial and Medical Technology markets.
According to the company, the following products are aimed at the aerospace connections market:
Tufflite Aluminum-TLA: This is an extremely light and flexible power feeder option that feature aluminum conductors, with weight reductions up to 60 percent compared to other options.
Octax 10 Gbps Ethernet Interconnect System: Available in multiple form factors, these connectors are designed for reliable performance and termination in extreme, rugged environments.
Gigabit-10HP: These Ethernet cables (in Bonded-Pairs and X-Web) ensure reliable 10 Gigabit performance up to 500 MHz at distances of up to 90 meters in the most extreme routing, applications, and environments.
LITEflight Fiber Optic Cable: These cables are specifically designed to provide maximum performance and durability in the demanding conditions found in aerospace, military, industrial, and other harsh environments.
Compulink Cable Assemblies is a build-to-print contract manufacturer that focuses on cable assembly and harnesses for military clients. The company’s connections product line includes coax, RF, MIL-C-38999 and custom molded cable assemblies for virtually any application.
Compulink has been providing cable and harness assemblies to the medical, transportation and military marketplaces since 1984. They are used in aerospace in-flight applications, plus military communications and computing, medical mannequins, and mine detection equipment.
kSARIA is a designer, manufacturer and installation services provider of mission critical fiber optic and electrical interconnect solutions for the defense and aerospace industries
kSARIA has recently introduced the OptiFLEX line of Fiber Optic Flex Circuits that provide high density routing of fiber optic channels on flexible substrates, for backplanes and systems that require high density optical interconnects. The company’s Fiber Optic Flex Circuits provide a manageable method of routing fiber from interface to interface.
Whether using individual Single mode or Multimode fibers, kSARIA’s computer-aided systems can manufacture the circuits in any routing matrix, size or shape. The company continues to enhance its product line by offering substrates with different materials, which are optimized for customers applications.
Lectromec is a laboratory and engineering firm that provides full life cycle support for wire system component testing and system engineering. The company works with aerospace companies, foreign and domestic militaries, and governments to address their electrical wiring interconnect system (EWIS) testing and risk assessment needs. Lectromec’s services include lab testing to assess component performance, EWIS certification support, and risk assessment of both new and aged platforms.
In line with the move to electric aircraft propulsion, Lectromec can now test aircraft connection systems and components with high-frequency high-voltage power, including measurements up to 5kV (kilovolts) and 4kHz to determine the long-term voltage endurance of EWIS components.
TE Connectivity provides electronic interconnect solutions for the commercial and military aerospace industry from the initial stages of aircraft design to aftermarket support. The company offers component design to customers as well as low cost, turn-key finished assemblies.
They employ sophisticated computer modelling of the magnetic, thermal, mechanical and electrical parameters of a design to ensure optimum performance.
Among the company’s aerospace connections products are the following:
Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Cable: This is a Raychem Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) cable, which provides faster data rates in a smaller, lighter solution. The SPE cable is designed to be durable and versatile to operate in harsh environments applications such as commercial and military aerospace, defense, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and space.
MULTIGIG Connector: The MULTIGIG RT 3 is TE Connectivity’s fastest rugged backplane connector. It supports speeds of 32+Gb/s, making them among the fastest rugged backplane connectors for embedded computing or VPX systems currently on the market.
COPALUM Lite Sealed Terminals and Splices: TE Connectivity’s new COPALUM Lite sealed terminals and splices offers up to 60 percent in weight savings versus copper terminal alternatives.
Times Microwave Systems designs and manufactures high performance coaxial cables, connectors and cable assemblies for aerospace, military, telecommunications, industrial RF and microwave applications. Their products include high-performance flexible, semiflexible and rigid coaxial cable assemblies, connectors and delay lines for applications requiring phase stability, phase tracking and the lowest possible attenuation at microwave frequencies in the most hostile environments.
Some of Times’ more innovative products include Zero dB cable assemblies that exhibit no loss by utilization of a miniature amplifier built into the assembly, blind mate antenna systems, and silicon dioxide (SiO2) cable assemblies. Commercial wireless products for telecommunications applications include flexible 50 Ohm LMR® cables, connectors and assemblies as well as SilverLine® test cables and Times-Protect® RF surge and lightning protection products.
W. L. Gore & Associates is an aerospace wire and cable manufacturer. It uses proprietary technologies based on the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to create products for aerospace cabling, medical implants; fabric laminates; and cable, filtration, sealant, membrane, venting and fiber technologies for a wide range of industries.
Everyone is Seeking Solutions
Addressing the trends listed above is Top Priority for connections manufacturers and their customers in aircraft production, maintenance/upgrades, and ownership/operations.
According to Carrie Obedzinski, Business Development manager at Times Microwave Systems, it is their customers who are demanding solutions to a range of connections-related issues. “They’re trying to drive costs out of their business,” she said. “They’re looking to improve production efficiencies. At the same time, they want to reduce their inventories while speeding up their operations. For instance, repair facilities often only have overnights to do equipment replacements, which is why they want connections solutions that are fast and efficient to install.”
At Times Microwave Systems, their big challenge is to produce connections solutions that specifically address customers’ needs. “This is why we have a team that’s dedicated to actually calling on these customers and trying to gather that information from the customers as to what they’re really looking for and defining those parameters,” Obedzinski said. “We listen to their input to determine how do we can make our products better and package them as complete solutions that can be assembled quickly in the field.”
Over at Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, the company is developing new connection architectures to carry the high voltages demanded by electric propulsion systems. This is no easy task: “The truth is a lot of these advanced constructions are new to us,” said Behlendorf. “So we are struggling with newer insulation technologies to provide electrical isolation for these high voltage products from other low voltage systems within the aircraft.” Arcing is a particular problem with carbon composite aircraft, which don’t provide the degree of electrical isolation that aluminum airframes do. Without proper isolation, high voltage lines can end up arcing with the carbon composite airframe.
As always, reducing SWaP remains paramount. “There’s a lot of push to carry the power without adding pounds to the plane,” he said. “That’s driving us to explore alternate materials and metals for the conductors themselves. As a result, a lot of multilayer-plated conductors are being incorporated into products today. We’re also looking at new jacketing materials to control the arcing and maintain isolation of those high voltage systems, again without adding a ton of pounds onto the plane.”
Fortunately, there is a way for the aerospace connections industry to gain insight into solving high voltage issues, namely by looking at how other industries have learned to move high voltage electricity in a safe and consistent fashion. “The electrical utility industry has been dealing with tens to hundreds of thousands of volts safely for an extended period of time,” said Traskos. “So there’s a lot that can be learned from them in this regard. We need to find out how they have solved these problems, using the kinds of materials that work best in an aircraft environment.”
An Ever-Changing Marketplace
The trends influencing aerospace connections manufacturers are keeping them in a state of constant change. There is no time to rest on their laurels: Aerospace customers need connections technology that works with electric propulsion; moves data easily; resists high voltage; and is smaller, lighter, and tougher than ever before.
Looking ahead, it seems likely that the pace of progress will only increase, as OEMs advance into new propulsion systems such as hydrogen, develop autonomous/self-flying aircraft, and continue to incorporate novel materials that are lighter and stronger than aluminum into their products.
That the aerospace connections industry will find creative ways to address these changes is unquestioned. It is the specific ways in which they will do this, that remain to be seen.
Cobham Aerospace Connectivity is proud to have been selected by Boeing to develop and deliver the next-generation Ultra High Frequency SATCOM Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) conformal antennas. The equipment upgrade will be for approximately 319 aircraft with testing due to begin in the fall of 2021.
Boeing will be integrating MUOS into suite 9.2 of the F-15C and F-15E aircraft as it replaces the legacy Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) satellite communications system. Cobham will be replacing its incumbent UFO L-band antenna on the platforms with an upgraded conformal satellite communications antenna which will support both UFO and MUOS capability.
Enabling a smartphone-like capability across the battlefield and skies, MUOS will provide near global beyond line of sight communication services with seamless access into the Global Information Grid, as well as the Defense Switching Network. MUOS brings a capacity 16 times greater than UFO SATCOM, enabling crystal-clear voice, video, and mission data over a secure high-speed Internet Protocol (IP) based system.
The next generation 19-5006 conformal antenna will be compatible with both MUOS and the UFO legacy payload to enable a smoother transition. This highly-engineered, baseline technology paves the way for Cobham to offer further conformal and MUOS compatible solutions to other platforms with a high technology readiness level. This includes the Future Vertical Lift program which aims to equip platforms with a common footprint to be able to dominate in a multi-domain operational environment.
“We are delighted that our investments in innovation for this program over the last several years has resulted in success and look forward to developing and delivering with Boeing,” Matt Cadwell, North America sales director, said. “Our highly engineered antennas will allow suite 9.2 of the F-15 to improve defense capability with the next generation communication potentials achievable through MUOS. As well as continuing support for UFO communication during the transition, the F-15 platform will be able to realize the greater capacity and signal quality that MUOS capability can provide.”
Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) has been working with Frequentis to create an environment where drones and civil aviation can coexist in the shared airspace. By integrating air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) on the same platform, situational awareness and safety will be enhanced, allowing increased use of drones in Estonia. The project will accelerate the roll out of Estonian U-space (unmanned airspace) and allow drones to serve critical industry.
The project delivers a pre-operational system, hosted in the Frequentis cloud environment, to allow use cases and business cases to be defined, verified, and trialed. The flexibility of the system, and the experience Frequentis gained from previous projects, allowed the system to be adapted to the needs of EANS. This has allowed EANS to take a leading role in creating the Estonian drone ecosystem and a step closer to their U-space roadmap for Estonian airspace.
“The usage of drone-based services is increasing constantly and drone traffic volume in urban air space is one of the biggest challenges we have to face. To cope with future demand and to continue providing safe airspace operations, we must ensure that all airspace users are aware of each other. It is crucial to have an efficient unmanned traffic management (UTM) system in place that also interacts with manned aircraft operations,” said Jaanus Jakimenko, head of CNS Department and Member of the EANS Management Board. “EANS worked with Frequentis on the SESAR Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space trials in 2019. This experience gave us the knowledge and ability to quickly support the use of drones for emergency services during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. It has also given us the needed assurance of Frequentis technological capabilities and knowledge of their experienced team. We are looking forward to enhancing our airspace operations in line with the growth of drone usage.”
The 2019GOF project focused on ATM/UTM integration testing the U-space concept of operations in seven advanced drone trials. During the 2020 COVD-19 lockdown the Frequentis flight information management system (FIMS) was reactivated and, as a result, enabled EANS to support Estonian emergency services with series of essential drone operations. The cloud-based system is provided as managed service in the Frequentis cloud environment, allowing validation of use cases and business cases as well as UTM/UAS trials. Furthermore, the cloud architecture enables a fully optimised deployment process, without the need for on-site activities. This ensured project success despite the challenges of COVID-19. The current solution will enable EANS to move forward with realising Estonian U-space concept of operations and started implementing technological solution to provide drones safe and secure access to the airspace.
The current cooperation will validate the pre-operational system for EANS for monitoring and authorizing unmanned flights and create preliminary capabilities for common information sharing as outlined in the new U-space regulatory framework. The validation of the pre-operational solution will enable EANS to decide on how to best proceed with deploying U-space in the upcoming years and support the growing unmanned ecosystem.
“The FIMS provides Common Information Services (CIS) and U-space services ensuring a single source of truth where necessary, a foundation for U-space, which allows real-time situational awareness for air traffic controllers, drone operators and service providers, enabling both manned flights and drones to safely share the same airspace,” says Guenter Graf, vice president Frequentis New Business Development “The Frequentis platform allows drone operators to see airspace restrictions and flight rules, file flight plans, and receive updates from Air Traffic Controllers in real time, supporting ANSPs with their goals for increased drone services to support their future tech economy.”
Thales is unveiling the RSM NG, a new digital secondary radar – a meta-sensor for safer skies. The radar leverages the latest digital technologies to bring airports outstanding performance, cyber protection and optimized life-cycle costs.
Thales says a meta-sensor approach makes the radar unique. The 2 in 1 sensor ensures the quality, integrity and availability of data provided to air traffic controllers, contributing to the aircraft’s 3 NM separation standards. The RSM NG combines ADS-B and radar (Mode S) data for faster track initialization providing higher-quality information with reliability.The radar can track up to 2,000 flight tracks and share 64 data outputs simultaneously to different air traffic centers.
Based on international NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) framework, the RSM NG is cyber-secured by design, Thales says, with a single interface for controlling cybersecurity functions while maintaining the radar’s operational behavior.
Minimizing re-interrogation rates, the RSM NG reduces radio frequency pollution and provides an interference map to facilitate its integration in the environment.
All of these technological enhancements integrate seamlessly into the constant evolving ATC environment; in particular, the advanced digital architecture of the RSM NG supports software-defined upgrades to accommodate future technical requirements Thales says.
More compact and easy to deploy, the RSM NG incorporates HUMS capabilities (Health Usage and Monitoring System) for optimized maintenance. Re-engineered to limit life-cycle costs, the radar has a very compact design with 30% reduction in weight and volume, with now only two electronic cabinets instead of three.
“With more than 50 years of experience in secondary surveillance radars, Thales is constantly investing to lead the latest innovations in the market for air traffic control radars for safer skies. The RSM NG represents no less than 10 patents,” said Marie Gayrel, director of ATC radar activities, Thales.
The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) announced their continued commitment to the Single African Sky initiative through the installation of a third Aireon Service Delivery Point (SDP) in their Dakar, Senegal operations center. The installation of this tertiary SDP allows ASECNA to receive triple-redundant data to all six ASECNA controlled Flight Information Regions (FIRs)- Antananarivo, Brazzaville, Dakar Oceanic, Dakar Terrestrial, Niamey and N’Djamena – over three independent telecommunications lines. Each line is also feeding data into the ASECNA AFISNET Very-Small-Aperture Terminal (VSAT) network, making space-based ADS-B highly available in the region.
ASECNA, first initiating the Aireon service operational deployment in January 2020, now has one of the most robust networks for space-based ADS-B data. The AFISNET VSAT network allows every ASECNA center to receive Aireon data, which is seamlessly integrated into their Thales TopSky automation platform, with minimum latency. Space-based ADS-B is being used throughout their airspace, augmenting ground sensors. With the upcoming African ADS-B mandate, this technology will facilitate a more dynamic, safe and efficient airspace and allow these multiple FIRs to operate as one, harmonious airspace, furthering the objectives Single African Sky initiative. Also, the connection to the AFISNET VSAT network will make it easier for Member States to access full air traffic surveillance data and coordinate with regions throughout the continent.
According to Mohamed Moussa, ASECNA Director General, “Single African Sky is the fundamental goal of ASECNA. By deploying Aireon data throughout our region, we are maintaining the highest level of safety and providing the most robust data to all member states through the AFISNET VSAT network. ASECNA is leading the global aviation community by eliminating the reliance on ground-based surveillance and transitioning it to satellites, in line with a complete satellite CNS strategy that also includes satellite-based augmentation system – SBAS – for Africa. Every region, no matter how remote, now has access to this data.”
Don Thoma, Aireon CEO said, “Working with ASECNA throughout their deployment has been an honor. DG Moussa and his team have made Single African Sky their largest priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have taken this opportunity to enhance their technology and operations. ASECNA has made the investment to position their airspace as one of the most advanced and efficient in the world, leading the African continent to be the gold standard in air traffic surveillance.”
Pioneer Metal Finishing (Pioneer), a portfolio company of Aterian Investment Partners (Aterian), announced the acquisition of Electrochem Solutions (Electrochem).
Founded in 1982 and based in Union City, Calif., Electrochem is a metal finishing company in Silicon Valley. Electrochem provides a range of highly technical finishing solutions including gold plating, silver plating, anodizing, electroless nickel, and other services to clients primarily in the semiconductor fabrication equipment end market.
“Pioneer is the right choice for Electrochem, our employees and customers,” David Rossiter, owner of Electrochem, said. “Pioneer is recognized as the ideal buyer for family and founder owned metal finishing businesses. I am confident Pioneer will be a great home for our employees and customers because of our shared goals and values.”
Daniel Krasnow, principal at Aterian added, “We are excited to continue to build upon Pioneer’s strategy of acquiring leading metal finishing businesses. Electrochem expands Pioneer’s presence on the West Coast and adds new technical capabilities Pioneer can build upon.”
Defense, aviation and aerospace firms all demand mission-critical performance from precious metal plating and coating for a variety of rigorous applications including systems for missile guidance, aircraft power and thrust and satellite communications. Connectivity solutions, for example, must deliver 100% reliable current and voltage under potentially harsh conditions.
“For aerospace customers, this acquisition uniquely positions Pioneer to provide highly complex solutions, flexible capabilities and an ultra-reliable supply chain to a dynamic industry that’s exhibiting strong growth. Across all markets, customers appreciate the stability offered by Pioneer’s financial strength, broad customer base and large footprint across North America – currently 11 facilities and more than one million square feet of manufacturing capacity. Pioneer in committed to continually meet their needs today, tomorrow and into the future,” said Carlos Miller, Pioneer Metal Products’ VP Aerospace and Defense, shown above. “Like Pioneer, Electrochem has a proud history of developing and executing challenging engineered surface solutions that other companies shy away from. We’re now a one-stop shop for precious metal coatings that provide superior connectivity and anti-corrosion performance. Founded nearly 40 years ago, Electrochem focuses on functionally engineered precious metal plating, electroless nickel, aluminum anodizing, complex masking and clean room-based related services for specialized, high-tech components; Electrochem is an approved vendor for many Fortune 500 companies. Francisco Ruiz, current General Manager, will continue leading this division.”
Weil Gotshal & Manges advised Pioneer on the transaction.