Aviation's Connectivity Platform of Choice
By Ben Forrest, Insight Magazine. Read the article on page 106 in the upcoming Insight Magazine Winter 2022 issue.
WITH INNOVATION AS A CORNERSTONE, SKYTRAC CREATES CUSTOMER VALUE IN MULTIPLE SEGMENTS OF AVIATION THROUGH INTELLIGENT CONNECTIVITY AND MISSION-CRITICAL CAPABILITIES.
From the expanse of Canada’s remote territories to the off-shore oil fields of South America, and other locations around the world, helicopter crews rely on connectivity solutions from SKYTRAC to deliver mission-critical capabilities that help them save lives.
This has been the case since 1986, when SKYTRAC launched as one of the first companies to provide aircraft tracking technology to aerial firefighting, air medical response, and law enforcement operations.
Today, the company has evolved into an end-to-end connectivity partner that delivers mission-critical capabilities to operators in all segments of aviation, including first responders, militaries, coast guard, aerial firefighting operators, commercial airlines, and uncrewed aerial systems (UAS).
To put it simply: SKYTRAC is the global partner of choice for operators who work in conditions where connectivity is not merely a luxury or a convenience — it’s a matter of safety.
“SKYTRAC has been working with helicopter fleets for decades,” said Iain Ronis, the company’s director of product management. “And the longevity of those solutions demonstrates the commitment and understanding of the challenges helicopter fleets face.”
SKYTRAC is also one of the world’s dominant designers and manufacturers of Iridium-based satellite solutions, which are ideally suited to rotorcraft operators.
“Iridium, as a communication solution, works wonderfully on helicopters — especially when they are in remote situations where standard aircraft radios are out of range,” Ronis said.
In addition to offering mission-critical solutions, SKYTRAC works with clients and partners to develop supplemental type certificates to support aircraft installations, and craft custom applications that fit unique mission requirements. With its well-tenured engineering and consulting staff, SKYTRAC is truly a one-stop connectivity shop for aerospace operators.
SKYTRAC said it has succeeded due to its culture that supports innovation, with its flagship satellite communications (satcom) terminal — the ISAT-200A — exemplifying SKYTRAC’s commitment to pushing the envelope.
This unique, all-in-one terminal began as a flight following and fleet management tool but has since been enhanced to support flight data acquisition, in-flight data monitoring, medical data telemetry, health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) alerting, and Iridium Push-to-Talk service.
SKYTRAC has worked with Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo, Sikorsky, Bell, and other major original equipment manufacturers, to integrate the ISAT-200A terminal into their platforms. The ISAT-200A terminal is a certified solution for more than 900 airframe types, with installations on over 5,000 aircraft.
Transition to Iridium Certus
In 2019, SKYTRAC became a value-added manufacturer and service provider for the new Iridium Certus brand of high-speed satellite data capabilities. SKYTRAC is developing best-in-class Certus satcom terminals that provide any type of aircraft with
broadband connectivity while flying anywhere on the planet.
“Certus is enabling a much higher data capability than what was previously possible, but in a form factor
that can be used on smaller aircraft, such as helicopters, light jets, and UAS,” Ronis said.
This next-generation Certus technology provides an ideal and better alternative to costly geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) networks requiring large antennas and heavy satcom terminals. Using SKYTRAC’s compact new terminals, Certus provides real-time voice communications, high-definition video streaming, artificial intelligence (AI)-based application support, and, specifically for UAS operators, the ability to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and to maintain assured command and control (C2) continuity.
SKYTRAC’s series of Iridium Certus terminals, the SDL-350, IMS-350, and DLS-100, are also resistant to the solar fade and rotor shadow effects found on legacy GEO platforms, a powerful value proposition for the adoption of SKYTRAC’s Iridium Certus solutions.
“When speaking with operators, it was clear that this technology will be a game changer for many of our customers, especially the ones operating helicopters,” Ronis said.
Powerful New Capabilities
These new capabilities enabled by Certus will directly impact rotorcraft dominated segments like aerial firefighting, search-and-rescue (SAR), air medical, and many others, by enabling real-time data-driven decision-making.
Air medical crews can send a live feed of patient data directly to the hospital, including electrocardiogram results, oxygen and carbon dioxide saturation levels, pulse rate, and blood pressure data, from any point on the globe through SKYTRAC’s intelligent
At the same time, aerial firefighters can use AI software to automatically detect and map fire, water, and boundaries through multiple feeds from electro-optical and infrared sensors.
SAR operators and coast guard authorities can use SKYTRAC technology to reduce analyst workload when searching large areas. The system automatically detects rescue victims, alerts analysts, and enables HD video feeds with global broadband connectivity.
“This allows for fast, informed decision-making that ultimately provides operators with the situational awareness they need for critical missions,” Ronis said.
UAS: The Next Frontier
UAS is the fastest-growing segment in aviation, and it represents the industry’s next frontier.
With applications in shipping and delivery, rescue operations, agriculture, law enforcement, wildlife protection, and more, these new aerial vehicles are already intersecting with the helicopter industry to offload routine surveillance and aerial imaging.
But to truly unlock the potential of UAS, there is a critical need for global connectivity that enables BLVOS and C2 operations. Both are possible with SKYTRAC’s IMS-350 and DLS-100 satcom terminals.
“That’s one of the most exciting areas,” Ronis said. “Iridium satcom is ideal because its terminals and antennas are the smallest available. And for a UAS operator, the beauty of Iridium is that they have no dependency on ground-based infrastructure — their aircraft can operate anywhere in the world over land and sea.”
The future of airborne connectivity is here, and SKYTRAC is leading the way.
“Whatever type of aircraft you fly mission you do or area you operate in, the best thing to do is to reach out to SKYTRAC to find the right choice for satcom and cellular data connectivity,” Ronis said.
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