US firm prepares to flight test internet superhighway in the sky

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Airborne Wireless Network has acquired two flight laser terminals in preparation for the first flight tests of its hybrid radio and laser communications airborne internet network.

The terminals and associated components have been supplied by laser communication equipment company Mynaric and will allow Airborne Wireless Network (AWN) to carry out a two-plane test of its network using two Cessnas.

AWN aims to create a high-speed broadband airborne wireless network by linking aircraft in flight, creating what it plans to call the “Infinitus Super Highway”. Each aircraft in the network will act as an airborne repeater or router, sending and receiving broadband signals from in-flight and ground stations.

AWN intends to supply high-speed broadband internet access wholesale to internet service providers in places that are inadequately connected, such as rural areas, island nations, ships at sea, oil platforms, commercial and private aircraft in flight.

Michael Warren, CEO of Airborne Wireless Networks, said, “Our collaboration with Mynaric in our upcoming Cessna tests provides an important step in initiating our proprietary Hybrid Radio and Laser Communications System and moves us closer towards achieving the commercialization of our Infinitus Super Highway.

“We expect this demonstration will confirm data rates between two airborne platforms that was not previously technologically possible.”

The Cessna tests follow a successful proof-of-flight concept test performed in Roswell, New Mexico during May 2017 which used two Boeing 767s. Those tests successfully showed that aircraft equipped with AWN’s Infinitus system can act as airborne repeaters/ routers and send and receive broadband signals from one aircraft to another.

The proof-of-flight concept test also successfully demonstrated aircraft-to-ground communication, ground-to-aircraft communication, and aircraft-to-aircraft-to-ground-and-back communication.

Through a patent application made in July, AWN is seeking exclusive rights to this method of synchronizing laser links between aircraft in flight for use in its proprietary networking technology.

The Mynaric flight laser terminals being used for the Cessna tests will test the interruption of the laser link to further validate AWN’s hybrid radio and laser communications system. The Cessna tests are being designed to prove that “self-synchronizing” and “self-restoring” airborne laser links are feasible and practical.

As well as the Cessna tests, AWN plans to conduct a larger airborne test involving up to 20 commercial aircraft during 2018.

Mynaric makes laser communication equipment for wireless data transmission. Its products include ground stations and laser terminals that enable very large quantities of data to be sent wirelessly over long distances at high speeds.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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