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ThinKom Completes IFC Trials of Phased-Array Ka-Band Antenna

By | April 1, 2019
Photo: ThinKom

Photo: ThinKom

ThinKom Solutions successfully completed In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) trials of its ThinAir Ka2517 phased-array antenna mounted on the Proteus high-altitude long-endurance aircraft. 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 demo flights at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The ThinAir antenna delivered a 25 Megabits Per Second (Mbps) return link and a 5 Mbps forward link operating at over 50,000 feet altitude through an Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band satellite in Geostationary Orbit (GEO). The phased array 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 25 Mbps from the aircraft at an elevation angle of 25 degrees, while providing data rates of 12 Mbps at elevation angles as low as 15 degrees. 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 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and long-endurance missions flying at extreme altitudes,” said ThinKom Solutions Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bill Milroy. “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.”