Viasat Demos Phased Array Antenna on Enterprise Jet

After a successful demonstration of a Viasat antenna on a Cessna Citation II, phased array satcom antennas are moving closer to availability for aircraft. The first demonstration flight took place on April 20th during a flight from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to Payerne, Switzerland.

These efforts were part of the AIDAN project, led by Viasat Antenna Systems Switzerland, which involved a consortium of partners that included Viasat Netherlands, NLR and Lionix International. The Citation II was provided by the NLR and the AIDAN project is funded by the European Space Agency, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Viasat and other European companies.

Viasat’s phased array antenna can track satellites with no moving parts and “electronically control its beams to maintain contact with the satellite,” according to the company. Although the antenna is somewhat large and needs to be installed in a convenient location on top of the fuselage, it could open up opportunities to provide broadband high speed Ka-band connectivity for aircraft that cannot accommodate a mechanically controlled tail or fuselage antenna.

Prior to the April 20th demo flight, the tiles and openings on the phased array antenna were tested in an anechoic chamber, then the antenna was mounted in a transporter that was driven around to ensure that its beams were properly aimed at the Viasat satellites were.

After the first flight, according to Carolina Vigano, RF and Terminal Director at Viasat Antenna Systems, several demonstration flights were made. “We tried to load the system and see how it reacts,” she said. This included streaming Netflix on one laptop, making a Zoom call on another laptop while another user uploaded a large file over a VPN, and everyone on board connected as many devices as possible.

“This core technology is a building block to connect fixed and mobile platforms in the air, on land and at sea to enable the groundbreaking broadband experiences that Viasat satellites will offer worldwide,” said Viasat.

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