In response to increasing demand for high-speed inflight connectivity on regional jets, ThinKom Solutions and CarlisleIT have announced plans to bring to market a fully integrated phased-array Ka-band satellite antenna for these aircraft types.
The antenna, named the ThinAir Ka1717, uses ThinKom’s existing VICTS (variable inclination continuous transverse stub) technology that is currently in use on thousands of narrowbody and widebody aircraft. For the ThinAir Ka1717, the lightweight, low-profile VICTS antenna system has been adjusted to meet the specific weight and space requirements of regional jets.
According to ThinKom, the complete antenna subsystem, including the antennas, solid-state power block (SSPB) amplifier, adapter plate, fairing, and radome, is 6in-high and weighs less than 73kg (160 lbs). ThinKom has integrated the Ka antenna networking data unit (KANDU) and the Ka radio frequency unit (KRFU) functionality inside the crown-mounted radome to accommodate the in-cabin space limitations of regional jets. The installation footprint has been optimised for the narrower fuselages of regional aircraft, supporting a dorsal-mounted SATCOM solution without a drag penalty.
The system has a low power draw so that gate-to-gate operation is possible, even under conditions of high thermal and solar loading. The Ka1717 has also been designed to meet the ITU Article 22 and WRC 5G earth station in motion (ESIM) requirements to ensure the system does not interfere with GEO satellites when operating on NGSO networks or with 5G terrestrial networks that share the same Ka-band spectrum.
In the next stage, ThinKom and CarlisleIT are collaborating on the development and certification of a fully integrated Ka1717 package, including the radome, adapter plate, fairing, power supply, connecting cables and installation kits for the regional jet market. The partners say the full satcom system, including installation hardware, connecting cables, and in-cabin networking equipment, will be “comfortably below” 115kg (250 lbs).
“Until now, it has been impractical for regional jet operators to offer their passengers the same level of inflight connectivity experience as larger passenger jets, mostly because of the size, weight and drag of existing aero antenna systems,” said Bill Milroy, CTO and chairman of ThinKom Solutions. “The Ka1717 addresses this need with an antenna system that is the ideal form factor for regional jets, designed to operate on any Ka-band constellation the customer chooses and is based on ThinKom’s existing, highly reliable and efficient VICTS antenna designs. This system is a key enabler to contracting with airlines to a very high service level agreement.”