Building on a good thing

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Satcom Direct’s Michael Christensen, Director, Middle East, talks to EVA about the company’s range of new services

When you can offer high-speed connectivity between business aircraft and the ground, it becomes possible to do far more than just be the major comms link provider. As Michael Christensen, Director for Satcom Direct, EMEA, points out, the company has built on its router technology and its reseller agreements with communications providers such as ViaSat, Inmarsat, Panasonic and SmartSky Networks to launch a range of new, value-added products.

“There are three main new things that we have done over the course of 2016, that are quite exciting for our customer base. With the arrival of higher speed bandwidth, such as Ka-band from Inmarsat, Panasonic Ku-band for business aviation, and ViaSat’s expanding global network, we have a throughput that enables us to deliver streaming media content to the aircraft with SD Entertainment,” he explains.

“It was clear to us that many of our customers are quite happy using their personal devices rather than cabin monitors, to access the content of their choice while travelling on business aircraft. The satellite technology we have today in aviation provides us with enough bandwidth the enable this type of solution. SD Entertainment provides a range of solutions to meet the varying demands for media content,” Christensen comments.SD Entertainment will provide customers with access to live TV, the latest movies and TV shows, as well as streaming media content.

Satcom Direct (SD) has also signed a partnership with Panasonic Avionics that makes SD the first business aviation value-added reseller for Panasonic’s global business aviation connectivity

service. “What Panasonic have brought out is prioritised traffic and bandwidth optimisation for the business aviation and government markets, providing a superior customer experience,” he says.

The Panasonic network is a Ku-band system that provides an alternative communications ‘pipe’ into the aircraft. “Customers now have a range of options when it comes to connectivity and they can choose the one that best suits their needs while travelling. We are looking at consistent performance and bandwidth on the Panasonic network, and that is very attractive to some customers. You can get up to 4Mb to the aircraft with this network,” Christensen explains.

Today, this is a fuselage-mounted antenna, so it is only suited to the largest business aviation aircraft such as the BBJ or ACJ variants. “There is a solution coming out shortly for the likes of Bombardier, and the Dassault Falcon range. Panasonic, with ourselves as partners, is fully engaging the entire spectrum of business aviation so you will most certainly see solutions for smaller jets soon,” he comments.

Panasonic also has its own TV channel service, which SD will be reselling. We’ll have our own SDR router on the aircraft and it will be integrated with the Panasonic network, which means clients will be able to use their cell phones on the Aircraft and will be able to use a wide mix of devices.”

The third new service SD introduced earlier in 2016, at EBACE, is SD Pro. As Christensen explains, this is a ground-based piece of software that allows all the different departments in a flight support room, or a flight operations desk, to have all the data they need brought together on a single screen. “We have partnered with a number of folks to deliver real-time data about the aircraft, on a single screen or device.

“The system uses real-time data from the aircraft to populate and drive a whole range of views of what is going on, via a ‘dashboard’ approach that lets the user see instantly if there is a problem somewhere, or if all is going well. So, for example, with SD Pro running on a laptop, tablet, or smart device in front of you, you can view and manage flight logs, performance data from the aircraft, scheduling and trip planning as well as look at maintenance information and the aircraft’s operating history,” Christensen outlines.

“What we have done is to aggregate information from multiple sources, most of which the flight department will already be using, but will not have access to on a single screen,” he notes.

The modules on its customisable dashboard display deeper views of all relevant data, and the modules themselves can be customised to meet individual flight department and team member requirements.

“We conceived the idea for SD Pro when we saw how members of aircraft management companies and flight departments had to access numerous information sources, multiple screens, and disparate access points to do their jobs. SD Pro changes that by bringing together many of these functions into a modular dashboard. We’ve already partnered with a number of providers to integrate the systems flight departments use most – and more partnerships are in the works,” Christensen says.