A high-performance Internet connection with an aircraft was recently established for the first time using NLR’s Citation research plane. This will enable passengers on commercial flights to have unlimited Internet access just as they do at home. NLR was engaged for this project by Inmarsat, a global operator of satellite networks. For this project, NLR installed special equipment in its Citation research plane, including several antennas, and obtained certification for the entire test set-up.
As part of the European Aviation Network (EAN), Inmarsat made approximately 300 4G ground stations suitable for exchanging Internet signals with passing aircraft in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom. Above sea and mountains where there are no ground stations, EAN automatically uses a solid satellite connection. This means that passengers on European flights will soon be able to use a high‑performance Internet connection that is reliable and fast. British Airways will be the launching customer.
Over the past nine months, NLR’s Citation clocked up almost 150 flying hours over a large part of Europe, from the Canary Islands to north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and down into Ukraine.
Inmarsat awarded the contract to NLR because NLR is able to quickly install the required on-board test facilities and has sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of demanding clients. Moreover, the Citation is a relatively small aircraft that, in terms of flying altitude and speed, has properties comparable to ‘ordinary’ passenger aircraft and thus produces representative test results at lower cost.
During a press conference on 26 February 2018, live contact was established between the Mobile World Congress in Madrid and the Citation as it was on its way from Munich to Frankfurt. For this occasion Manuel Neuer, goalkeeper of Bayern Munich and the German national team, was aboard the Citation: https://inflight.telekom.net/news/ean-wins-the-game/
See the EAN video of the event.