NXTCOMM CEO talks about new Eutelsat settlement and electronically managed antenna exams
Wireless tests are currently being carried out for NXTCOMM’s disruptive new electronically controlled antenna technology (ESA). Flight tests are slated to begin next year, the wireless connectivity company’s co-founder and CEO David Horton said in a recent interview with Avionics International.
In June, NXTCOMM unveiled AeroMax, a new flat-screen satellite antenna that the company believes could disrupt multiple mobility markets due to its modular design. On October 28, NXTCOMM signed a capacity agreement with Eutelsat Communications to use the E117WA satellite for wireless testing.
Horton expects AeroMax production to begin next year.
“We are currently testing over the air and it really is about our sub-arrays and configurations that support multiple form factors for multiple end users,” said Horton. “We will most likely start with an initial low-rate production by the end of the second quarter of 2021 and then start full-rate production in the second half of 2021. We are finalizing a few things including setting up production, workstations and of assembly tests, things that we as antennae people have to do to satisfy them [Federal Aviation Administration] FAA certification and [Federal Communications Commission] FCC license requirements. “
Horton went on to explain how NXTCOMM intends to disrupt the IFC antenna market by pointing out the antenna’s unique design. Using the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) patented fragmented aperture has already shown that military aircraft can be connected via satellites.
Whether a vehicle or an airplane is mounted, AeroMax has no moving parts and provides dynamic instantaneous bandwidth, utilizing the full two gigahertz on the front of the antenna or on the side facing the satellites. Described by Horton as “Lego”, manufactured as a printed circuit board that can be modified from aircraft to aircraft.
The antenna is being developed both as an ARINC 791 retrofit configuration and as a forward antenna for production aircraft.
“Our Lego is a small form factor printed circuit board that is roughly 25 by 25 centimeters. Essentially, we can take this one Lego and if a customer says they need the antenna’s power for X-. We scale the throughput the number of Legos needed to make this possible and collectively produce, “Horton said.
“We don’t have to go back to the drawing board to redesign the antennas every time a customer requests an antenna,” he added.
According to NXTCOMM’s October 28 press release, as part of their satellite capacity lease with Eutelsat, they will also “offer satellite capacity to customers seeking a differentiated connectivity experience not offered by existing service providers”.
“We know there are many customers out there who want a turnkey solution like ours. When we receive a customer request like this, we have to consider it on a case-by-case basis,” said Horton. “Right now, however, it is a little early for us to discuss a potential business model related to satellite capacity.”
NXTCOMM’s antenna technology is developed at its 10,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Cherokee County, Georgia. The company also intends to “add more products and services to the communications markets over the next year,” adding 50 full-time positions over the next 18 months, half of which will be specialty technical roles, in a June 29 press release.
For the next several months, NXTCOMM will focus on ongoing testing. “I mean, it’s one of those things where you just keep testing the product and really understand exactly what electronic scanning is about versus mechanical or hybrid or hybrid solutions,” he said. “But the tests will take a long time.”