LABACE Convention News

Satcom Direct Keeps Bandeirante Connected

 - August 8, 2022, 1:00 AM
Fototerra's Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante will be equipped with a Satcom Direct Plane Simple satellite communications system. (Photo: Satcom Direct)

Airborne mapping and sensing provider Fototerra needed a better way to transmit surveillance information for its oil and gas customers in Brazil, so the company looked into available satellite communications systems. However, satcoms that would fit on Fototerra’s Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante twin-turboprop offered limited speed and bandwidth, not enough to efficiently offload the massive amount of data gathered by the airplane while in flight, so the customer had to wait until the airplane neared the coast to transmit data via short-range microwave.

To solve this problem, Fototerra asked Satcom Direct (SD) if its Plane Simple satcom terminal and antenna system could fit into the EMB 110, and the result was a plan to develop a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the installation. The EMB 110 STC will be the first Plane Simple satcom installation in a special-mission aircraft and on a turboprop, according to Ewerton Libanio, managing director of SD Brazil. The STC is being developed by one of SD’s two dealers in Latin America, Jazz Engenharia Aeronáutica, based in Minas Garais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

SD has been operating in Brazil for the past 10 years. “[SD Brazil] was created to follow the local situation,” Libanio said, “and is able to provide satcom services to business aviation and other markets. We are here to support our customers and OEMs [like Embraer] as well.”

“Strategically, [Latin America] is a very important market for us,” said SD chief operating officer Michael Skou Christensen. “Some of those markets are still emerging. Like in Asia, we’re still exploring how much we can do in these emerging markets.” The opportunities in Latin America aren’t just for airborne customers, however, and SD is addressing aviation, maritime, and even land-based satcom solutions in remote areas that are, he said, “only addressable by satellite.”

Although SD began as a satcom service provider, it has expanded into manufacturing routers and now the two-LRU Plane Simple antenna and airborne terminal, which fits into aircraft as small as midsize jets. An installation on an Embraer Praetor midsize jet is planned this month {{AUGUST}}, according to Christensen.

SD also handles software related to the Plane Simple Ku-band satcom, ensuring that customer data “runs securely over a private network,” he explained.

The EMB 110 installation for Fototerra takes advantage of the aircraft being in a special mission configuration, allowing installation of the antenna on the top of fuselage under a radome. The airplane also carries cameras and data acquisition hardware, and the data captured can be transferred swiftly via Inmarsat’s Ku-band satellites from almost anywhere in the world.

At its LABACE booth (8007), SD will be sharing information about the Plane Simple satcom and SD Router as well as the EMB 110 and Praetor STC programs. SD is also working on a flat-panel antenna for low-earth orbit satcom networks, such as OneWeb. “There are so many actors [upcoming LEO providers],” he said, “and we’re having conversations with all of them.

SD started work on the flat-panel antenna design five years ago and aims to have it ready for when new LEO constellations enter service. “We will start over-the-air testing at the end of the year with OneWeb,” Christensen said. “The next milestones are more testing, flight testing, certification, and then STCs.”