ThinKom Solutions has announced the successful completion of in-flight connectivity trials of its ThinAir Ka2517 phased-array antenna mounted on the Proteus high-altitude long-endurance aircraft, a twin-turbofan tandem-wing aircraft originally developed and built by Scaled Composites.
The Proteus satellite data communication package was developed as a joint effort involving ThinKom, Inmarsat Government and Scaled Composites. The trials included initial tests in Chantilly, Virginia and the Mojave Air and Space Port, California, culminating in a series of demonstration flights at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
According to ThinKom, the ThinAir antenna delivered a 25Mbps return link and a 5Mbps forward link operating at over 50,000ft altitude through an Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band satellite in geostationary orbit. The phased array is said to have maintained connectivity to the satellite each flight, including during take offs, in-flight maneuvers and landings. Further, the ThinAir antenna was able to send the full 25Mbps from the aircraft at an elevation angle of 25°, while providing data rates of 12Mbps at elevation angles as low as 15°.
ThinKom supplied the Ka2517 phased-array antenna in a low-profile 7.8in high radome, along with an adaptor plate, antenna controller and transceiver electronics. Scaled Composites designed and built a custom fairing to mount the radome on the aircraft’s fuselage and integrated the ThinKom system with the payload on the aircraft.
Inmarsat Government developed and provided the system’s modem manager, Pro-Modman, designed specifically for the Ka2517 to operate on Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band steerable beams. The Pro-Modman integrates the capability of a DVB S2X modem with the flexibility of an OpenAMIP configurable system controller.
“These successful in-flight demonstrations further validate the ThinAir Ka2517’s capability to provide uninterrupted broadband connectivity with near-zero aerodynamic drag – an important consideration for many classes of UAVs and long-endurance missions flying at extreme altitudes,” said Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom Solutions. “I would like to thank the superb engineering teams from Inmarsat Government and Scaled Composites who worked with us to achieve this important milestone. This was truly a team effort.”