Premium passengers sleep better in those lie-flat seats in premium cabins, and airline CFOs would probably sleep better with light lie-flat antennas replacing those heavy, draggy radomes now needed for satellite broadband communication. CEO David Helfgott told attendees at the 2017 Global Aircraft Connectivity Summit that Phasor Solutions is “targeting” the second half of 2018 for having its lighter, flatter electronically steerable antenna (ESA) for Ku-band ready for the market.
Phasor antennas come in modules. For aviation, Phasor is working on six- and ten-module versions, the latter with a bigger footprint but also providing more signal gain. The six-module version would be about 36 by 42 inches in size and weigh only 26 pounds, versus the several hundred pounds now necessary for mechanically steered models and their radomes. And both six and ten-module ESAs would be less than two inches thick, a dramatic reduction in drag from radome heights.
No moving parts on ESAs also means better reliability and less maintenance. Airlines hate to incur downtime to fix a purely ancillary feature like a satcomm connection. “We will have a better MTBR [mean time between removals] than mechanical antennas,” Helfgott stressed.
The Phasor CEO emphasized his antenna will be more than just electronically steered. Its software-defined operation will enable nearly instantaneous tracking, tracking of multiple beams and dynamic beam sharing. “It will transform mobility,” Helfgott argued.
Flat ESAs that conform to fuselage shapes can lose performance at higher latitude, at least with current satellites. On the other hand, the low earth orbit satellites that may be coming would almost require something like an ESA to track adequately.
The Ku-band version of Phasor’s antenna has just finished Technology Readiness Level 7, on the TRL 0-9 scale. Beta testing for TRL 8 will begin in the third quarter of 2017, and “will take as long as it takes,” Helfgott said.
Phasor is talking to satcomm integrators now and is working on a Ka-band version of its ESA.