Aircraft SATCOM Systems

Round the World Solar Flight uses Cobham Connectivity

Lightweight AVIATOR 300SP SwiftBroadband terminal on-board revolutionary solar-powered aircraft will contribute to enabling vital link from pilot to mission control.

AVIATOR IGA-5006LYNGBY, Denmark - A specially customised Cobham SATCOM AVIATOR 300SP (Special Purpose) system will provide data and voice connectivity for the revolutionary Solar Impulse (Si2) airplane when it takes off from Abu Dhabi on its historic global circumnavigation attempt.


Leading aeronautical satellite communications equipment manufacturer Cobham has developed the lightest SwiftBroadband satcom terminal for the sun-powered aircraft, allowing access to Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband service for the transfer of video, telephone and aircraft telemetry to the Solar Impulse mission control centre.


The Solar Impulse team and official national partner Swisscom integrated the equipment on the aircraft, with guidance about impact on system performance by different alternatives provided by Cobham.


The modified, 40 per cent weight-reduced SBB system, including IGA-5006 antenna, Satellite Data Unit (SDU) and combined High Power Amplifier/Diplexer/Low Noise Amplifier (HLD), required Cobham, Inmarsat and Solar Impulse to agree minimum operating requirements, and commitment from Inmarsat to case approval.


Cobham SDUProviding a direct communication link between the pilot and the mission control centre, the satcom system enables the transmission of weather updates and route planning, as well as coordination with air traffic control and technical backup. The Cobham system will provide the only link with the aircraft during the ocean crossings, when line-of-sight communications to the ground is not possible. In addition, the data link facilitates live television and internet streaming video coverage. Telemetry data will help the Solar Impulse ground team track the progress and monitor the health of the aircraft, as well as optimising the energy management strategy.

Special modifications to reduce the weight of the system resulted in a total redesign of the SDU and customisation of the electronics for the Solar Impulse mission. With only electric propulsion on the Si2 aircraft, the reduced vibration and temperature requirements allowed Cobham to save further weight. Special versions of the IGA-5006 antenna and the HLD were created by designing out excess structural metal and heat sink capacity.


The position of the antenna on the airframe was another important aspect for consideration during integration of the satcom equipment to the aircraft systems. On the Si2 round-the-world aircraft, the antenna was placed on top of the tail fin which presents the least possible obstructions to the required clear line-of-sight to the satellites.


Johan Gericke, Director Systems Engineering, Cobham SATCOM, and the technical liaison to Solar Impulse, said: "The SATCOM AVIATOR 300SP system is the lightest SwiftBroadband satcom terminal by a large margin and was specifically developed for Solar Impulse to meet the prime weight criterium. Every gram of extra weight requires extra solar energy to raise the aircraft to the target altitude by the end of each flying day.


Cobham Standard HLD"While still employing established technology from the standard SDU, all superfluous interfaces and functions not required by the mission were eliminated. The resultant SDU is less than half the volume of the standard SDU and weighs in at less than a kilogram.


"Very early during the definition of the project, Cobham met with the Solar Impulse design team, the mission team, Swisscom, responsible for the end-to-end communication solution, and André Borschberg, the pilot and CEO of Solar Impulse. This allowed Cobham to accurately establish the mission profile and technical requirements before design and development work commenced.


"It is expected that the pilot will suffer from extreme fatigue during the longer hops of the round-the-world mission which will last for several days. The telephone connection offers a ground team as co-pilot. We are very proud to be playing a part in this ambitious flight and wish them success."


In addition to the satcom equipment, Cobham also provided a VT-2W high speed telemetry link, which was particularly important to verify design parameters during test flights. It is used primarily when the aircraft is within line-of-sight of a ground support team.


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Click here to watch the live stream of Solar Impulse 2's In Flight footage from Varanasi to Mandalay


Notes for editors

Si2 will take off from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirate, in late February or early March and return by late July or early August 2015. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 will fly across the Continental U.S.A. stopping in three locations - Phoenix, and New York City at JFK. A location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.
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 Solar Impulse 2

Solar Impulse 2, the Round-the-World Solar Airplane, with the white Cobham antenna visible on top of the tail fin.  © Solar Impulse | Pizzolante |


About Cobham

Cobham protects lives and livelihoods with its differentiated technology and know-how, operating with a deep insight to customer needs and agility. The Group offers an innovative range of technologies and services to solve challenging problems across commercial, defence and security markets, from deep space to the depths of the ocean. It has market leading positions in air-to-air refuelling; aviation services; audio, video and data communications, including satellite communications; defence electronics; life support and mission equipment. The most important thing Cobham builds is trust.


About Cobham SATCOM

Cobham SATCOM develops, manufactures, sells and supports satellite and radio communication terminals and earth stations for land, marine and airborne applications. With the ever increasing demand for communication, our products and services are used to satisfy the needs of a wide variety of commercial, governmental and recreational applications.


Cobham SATCOM uses state-of-the-art technologies to design affordable, highly reliable high performance systems that have decreased over time in terms of size, weight and power consumption. Our products enable people to stay in touch under the most challenging and demanding conditions. When traditional communication technologies fail, Cobham SATCOM's products will keep providing our customers with high quality voice, data, and multimedia communications.


Our product designs have evolved tremendously during their decades in service in use around the world in a variety of domains and environments. We market under the AVIATOR, EXPLORER, SAILOR® and Sea Tel brands. Please refer to our websites for our list of global distributors and partners. Cobham SATCOM has design, development and manufacturing facilities in Denmark, Norway, South Africa and the USA.


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