Latecoere's Li-Fi display at the 2019 Paris Air Show Lindsay Bjerregaard/Aviation Week

Latecoere Gears Up For Cabin Li-Fi Flight Demo

Latecoere is working with AFI KLM E&M to bring faster inflight entertainment to Air France passengers.

PARIS--Aerostructure and wiring specialist Latecoere is preparing to demonstrate the use of Li-Fi–light signal transmission via optical fiber and light-modulation infrared LEDs–as the infrastructure for faster inflight entertainment (IFE) systems.

The demonstration flight is planned for late October on an Air France-operated Airbus A321. As Latecoere wants to highlight the bandwidth increase Li-Fi can bring to the cabin, the 12 equipped seats will be occupied by the finalists of a video game tournament. The system's low latency and 100 Mbps per seat are compatible with network gaming, according to Serge Berenger, the Toulouse-based equipment manufacturer's chief technology officer.

The idea is to improve the performance of onboard IFE but not necessarily to provide each passenger with broader bandwidth for internet service, as this depends on communications with a satellite or a cellular network on the ground. Li-Fi is therefore said to be highly suitable to carry data from local servers.

Each passenger will be able to receive the transmitted content on the seatback terminal or his or her personal device. In the latter instance, connection will be offered via bluetooth or a USB chord.

Installation is said to be doable overnight. “We do not need any certification of an electrical system because ours is based on optic fiber, there is no electromagnetic interference,” says Berenger. MRO service provider Air France Industries has obtained a supplemental type certificate.

Our customers will be airlines, OEMs, MRO service providers and IFE system manufacturers,” says Berenger.

Latecoere first wants to target the retrofit market for medium-haul commercial aircraft. In retrofit, the equipment supplier can set its own production rate.

Medium-haul aircraft most often have no IFE system on board, Berenger explains. Installation is therefore easier. “On a long-haul aircraft, we would have to interface with existing systems,” he adds.

The cost of the installation is close to that of a wifi backbone but the latter would supply a mere 1 Mbps per seat, says Berenger. The first delivery could take place in the third quarter of 2020.

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