Thrane & Thrane believes its new Aviator 200 hardware for Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband 200 aeronautical service will revolutionize airborne communications for the unmanned aircraft market, providing an alternative to air-to-ground (ATG)-based connectivity for Tier II UAVs.

"What the Aviator 200 allows us to do is possibly get into those Tier II UAVs, which are smaller and require the lightest satcom possible and the smallest antenna possible. Right now, those Tier II UAVS are using ATG. The Aviator 200 is a great alternative to ATG," says Scott Hall, regional sales manager, aeronautical sales at Thrane & Thrane, which is formally launching the Aviator 200 for the unmanned market at this week's AUVSI unmanned systems exhibition.

Designed in accordance with Inmarsat's recently announced SwiftBroadband 200 service, the Aviator 200 system - with its low-gain antenna - simultaneously provides data speeds up to 200Kbps and a single AMBE 2 channel for real-time video, data and voice relay links between the aircraft and ground control stations.

Data and voice services can be accessed via wired or wireless connections built into the Aviator 200 equipment, alleviating the need for external wired and wireless routers.

Also during AUVSI, Thrane & Thrane is presenting its Aviator 300 system with an intermediate gain antenna and data speeds of up to 332Kbps and its Aviator 350 system with a high-gain antenna and data speeds of up to 432Kbps.

The Aviator 300 enables real-time video, voice and data links between aircraft and ground control stations, whereas the Aviator 350 goes a step further, offering all of the capabilities and form factor of the 300 in addition to the full spectrum of SwiftBroadband services offered within the Inmarsat I-4 constellation. This includes the new X-Stream service, which supports significantly enhanced data streaming and makes the system "particularly attractive" for the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) category of unmanned aerial systems, says Thrane & Thrane.

Flight Daily News understands that the Aviator 350 is already being tested on a handful of larger-sized UAVs - the Predator and the Global Hawk. Thrane & Thrane declines to comment on specific UAV programs involving the Aviator 350.

Hall notes, however, that the Aviator 350 "provides a viable alternative to Ku-band" satellite-based systems that support beyond-line-of-sight communications.

"What the UAV manufacturers are looking at is, now that we have SwiftBroadband the equipment is a lot smaller and lighter. The data rates aren't as fast as Ku, but we have global coverage and no interference with clouds," he says, noting that the Aviator 350 is suitable to be used as a standalone product for large UAVs as well as to augment Ku-band-based connectivity.

Source: Flight Daily News