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When the Astronautics team landed in Dallas, Texas, for Heli-Expo 2022 this spring, they had a lot to celebrate.
As the company unveiled its next generation aviation connectivity solution on the HAI show floor, Astronautics’ manufacturing operations transitioned to a new cutting-edge facility in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The move consolidated its production, engineering, program management, and support services into one completely renovated corporate headquarters for the first time in the company’s history.
But as welcome as the efficiencies and synergies that will emerge from this consolidation will be, Astronautics was even more excited about the products it showcased to the helicopter industry in Dallas in March.
Known worldwide as a producer of proven aviation connectivity solutions and reliable cockpit displays, Astronautics has built a reputation for providing avionics solutions that make flying safer and more secure. Its equipment can be found on more than 150,000 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, both civilian and military.
Recently, its award-winning air-ground communications system (AGCS) was developed as a standard-fit solution for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Airbus and launched on their new production H145 helicopters as wireless airborne communication system (wACS), enabling their connected services.
A lot of power in a compact package
At Heli-Expo 2022, Astronautics unveiled a new derivative of the AGCS/wACS — a lighter, more condensed connectivity option with technical standard order approval, AEC115.
Targeted as an OEM and aftermarket solution, AEC115 packs a lot of power into one box.
“We took our three LRU [line-replaceable unit] solution, which satisfied OEMs, maintainers and mission profiles, and condensed it into one box for aircraft like light helicopters,” explained Josh Berrian, Astronautics’ senior manager of connected products. “We condensed wireless radio technology, Ethernet, ARINC 429, serial interfaces, web server and HMI [human machine interface] into an 800-gram package … This is for any helicopter or aftermarket platform that needs Wi-Fi or wired internet and streaming connectivity to route mission data like video and location, or stream critical medical information, during the whole mission profile. It preserves those aspects in a compact package.”
AEC115 is a complete air-to-ground data transmission system for light aircraft, offering segregated Ethernet ports for mission use, ARINC 429 receive and transmit capability, RS-232 and RS-485 serial interfaces, and high-speed cellular (3G/4G LTE) and broadband Wi-Fi data transmission.
Like Astronautics’ AGCS, AEC115 allows customers to stay connected, wherever they may be.
“We developed our connectivity solutions for standard fit OEM part 29 and 27 installation, which means we incorporated world-class reliability, quality, and industrialization,” Berrian said. “That’s a big differentiator — I don’t know of another secure connectivity product that is rotorcraft standard fit like we are and built to thrive in that environment. We also have a global radio certification program and provide global cellular service for all our customers worldwide. Finally, we use multiple antenna input and output technology, so we achieve state-of-the-art performance.”
An aftermarket solution
The aftermarket use cases for the product are numerous. The AEC115 system is capable of streaming patient data in real time on helicopter emergency medical flights, or live streaming video from an airborne law enforcement mission. For corporate VIP applications, AEC115 allows passengers to enjoy high-speed connectivity throughout the duration of their flight.
Not only does Astronautics’ AEC115 provide quick and reliable data transmission, but the company’s experience designing the system for OEM and military applications means data — as well as sensitive avionics equipment — are securely protected.
“We have the history and capability to securely bridge domains between open wireless communication and secured avionics under a single supplier,” Berrian said. “Security is half the battle when you interface with primary flight displays, and that’s what we do all day with our displays and connectivity lines. We have the EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] and OEM security control development approvals, both rotary- and fixed-wing, to back that up.”
In development since May 2020, AEC115 made its official debut at Heli-Expo 2022, both as an OEM connectivity solution and as an aftermarket data gateway with cellular connectivity for EMS, law enforcement, search and rescue, and executive transport operators. Mary Loomis, director of communications, said the company hopes to announce its OEM customer, as well as its aftermarket launch customer — an EMS operator — at the event. In addition, Astronautics plans to unveil branding for AEC115 as part of its family of connectivity products.
As Astronautics concentrates on interfacing its connectivity solutions with its primary flight displays, the company is innovating new ways to load flight plans and other data, as well as obtain maintenance information. All of this capability is offered as a packaged solution through a single provider.
Astronautics’ Badger Pro+ integrated flight display system is the forward-fit solution on new Bell 412s and 429s, known for its crisp displays and high reliability. Also, the company’s RoadRunner electronic flight instrument is an affordable, incremental path to upgrading electromechanical primary flight displays to glass — gaining enhanced capabilities with minimal downtime.
Astronautics has more than 60 years of avionics experience designing and manufacturing innovative and reliable display systems, and now connectivity solutions. Both OEMs and operators depend on Astronautics products to improve the efficiencies of their aircraft, along with providing capabilities that enhance safe and secure mission readiness.