LAN cards will allow passengers to use networks in terminals and on board aircraft

A European aerospace team led by German research centre DLR has launched a project to develop a wireless communications architecture for aircraft.

Participants in the €6.6 million ($6.5 million) Development and Demonstrator of Wireless Access for Multimedia Services in Aircraft Cabins (Wireless Cabin) project, which is 50%-funded by the European Commission, aim to conduct flight demonstrations of a wireless communications architecture in the third quarter of next year, leading to a certificated system the following year.

In addition to DLR, project partners include Airbus Deutschland, Ericsson Telecomunicazioni, ESYS, Inmarsat, Information Society Technologies, KID Systeme, Siemens and universities. They are aiming to develop a wireless system that will provide airline passengers and aircraft crews with access to communication networks, in-flight information and entertainment. The architecture is also intended to support crew communications and security applications.

The project is intended to complete specifications and requirements for such a system, identify the interference potential with terrestrial and airborne systems, and develop and certificate a wireless system, says project co-ordinator Axel Jahn of DLR.

The infrastructure will be based on the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) - one of the third-generation mobile telecommunication systems - for personal telephony and packet data, and Bluetooth and W-LAN for internet protocol access.

The project participants eventually envisage airline passengers being given wireless LAN cards when they check in at airports, which will allow them to use communication networks in the airport terminal and on board the aircraft. Wireless communication and entertainment systems promise to simplify today's wired systems by reducing weight and maintenance requirements.

Jahn says the project participants have already started interviewing airlines, passengers and service providers to determine market requirements. British Airways and Lufthansa are observers on the project, with the German carrier expressing interest in providing an aircraft for demonstrations next year, says Jahn.

Source: Flight International