Arinc Direct expects to launch full production of its Connect low-cost business aviation communications service ahead of October's National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention and exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada, after working through remaining technical and regulatory hurdles.
"We were looking at having the box ready for the second quarter of this year, but we're a little bit behind with some of the things we've had to do to refine things," says Arinc Direct director James Hardie.
"We're very confident that by NBAA we'll be in full production offering it up to customers, and in between we'll be looking to do some trials as well," says Hardie.
He reveals that "Connect" is a working title for the offering, and fresh branding will likely be unveiled at the EBACE show in Geneva in May to avoid potential confusion with similarly-named competitor products.
The product was announced at the 2012 NBAA convention in Orlando, Florida, and a pre-production version will be demonstrated at EBACE, says Hardie. It is designed to provide airborne communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) messaging via an Apple iPad application, high quality voice communications using an iPhone or Android device, and email.
"We're looking to enable connectivity into new markets and also into existing markets with this box," Hardie says. "If they've got an Iridium phone system then this box can take the place of some of that, using the antenna infrastructure.
"We've had an awful lot of interest from all sorts of operators, from medevac to charter. They might buy this equipment and put it on board a charter aircraft that they are managing for another individual."
Connect is also being offered as a low-cost enabler for onboard services. "We think there's an opportunity there to enable across a much wider range of aircraft because of technological developments in terms of minaturisation of equipment and better understanding of interference issues," says Hardie. "A lot of those issues that were around at the top of people's agendas a few years ago are very much resolved."
He adds: "The next iteration will be looking at developing a user interface for the datalink in the cockpit, which would be done through the iPad and connecting to the Arinc Direct box."
CONNECT IPAD APP TO FUNCTION AS ELECTRONIC FLIGHT BAG
Hardie says the Connect iPad app is "essentially an electronic flight bag providing a paperless cockpit capability". New features have been added at the request of various customers, including "cloud" connectivity for continuous synchronisation.
"If you write something down on your iPad it's appearing on the co-pilot's iPad, and as long as the aircraft has got a connection to the ground then we can provide data back to our cloud servers," says Hardie. "They'll store that information so if there are any problems with it, it can be regenerated and the content of your flightplan is accessible in flight and after the flight by everybody."
Further features to be added in the coming months include ad hoc flight planning within the app, as well as "just before flight" activities such as weight and balance sign-off.
Arinc Direct was established a decade ago and provides flight planning, safety management, contract fuel, international trip support, datalink and internet connectivity tools and services for more than 2,800 business jets and VIP aircraft, with customers ranging from owner-operators to heads of state using VIP-configured Boeing 747s.
Source: Flight International