As much as the utmost: The brand new AeroMax antenna from NXTCOMM has much less interference

NXTCOMM is expected to begin production of its flagship antenna in early 2021. How does the company plan to steer its mission differently from the competition?

Satellite antennas can be the unsung – and invisible – heroes of aero connectivity. Hidden under a radome precisely attached to the fuselage of an aircraft, the antenna must maintain its connection with a satellite orbiting more than 22,000 miles above the Earth’s equator. The antenna is a key element of the connected aircraft in curves, climbs and descents as well as extreme temperature fluctuations.

With no moving parts, increased reliability, and the elimination of inertia that can lead to positioning errors, electronically steerable antennas solve many of the problems inherent in mechanically controlled systems.

With the aim of taking technology to the next level, Atlanta-based NXT Communications (NXTCOMM) developed AeroMax, a new electronically controlled flat panel antenna with a fragmented bezel – an innovation developed in partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institute .

“At the end of the day, any flat panel antenna system generally consists of a collection of tiny little antennas pointed at the satellite and all the complicated things behind it – the beamformers, the phase shifters, and whatever else you have to do with the voodoo of the electronic control of the Strahls, ”explains Carl Novello, Chief Technology Officer of NXTCOMM.

“The more powerful the antenna – even with the same satellite capacity – the faster you can drive.” – Carl Novello, NXTCOMM

The goal of NXTCOMM is twofold: improving performance and delivering a better value proposition to operators. The latter is achieved by simplifying production. “We have often seen new antenna technologies that require the invention of new manufacturing processes and materials,” says Novello. NXTCOMM’s antenna is made up of multiple sub-arrays – what he calls “our basic Lego block” – which are themselves made up of printed circuit boards (PCBs). “Printed circuit boards can be made in ridiculous quantities on a fairly well-known cost base,” added Novello.

However, what really sets the AeroMax apart is the aforementioned fragmented aperture technology, based on a design with roots in military applications, that greatly reduces the interference between the elements of an antenna: the 10,000+ tiny antennas in a standard aircraft installation. Along with reduced interference comes greater efficiency and performance.

“With a fragmented aperture approach, we can get a percentage of aperture efficiency in the mid to high 80s, while with conventional applications everyone is happy when they reach 60 percent, and 50 percent is damn good too. Says Novello. “But the more powerful the antenna – even with the same satellite capacity – the faster you can drive.”

“To the Maximum” was originally published in the 10.4. November / December issue of APEX Experience magazine published.

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