The Thales FlytLINKTM Connectivity Demonstrator will journey to the stratosphere onboard the Perlan Project’s Airbus Perlan Mission 2 engineless glider, as it aims to set a new world altitude record for a crewed wing-borne aircraft.
The Perlan Project is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to conduct zero-emissions climate, atmospheric, and aeronautical research at extreme high altitudes. To soar to 90,000 feet above sea level and break its previous world altitude record of 76,000 feet (set in 2018), the specially designed glider will take advantage of the wind currents from the Andes and the polar vortex. The attempt will take place in El Calafate, Argentina, in August 2023.
While aircraft connectivity isn’t a new concept, what separates Airbus Perlan Mission 2 is the stratospheric altitudes it will be operating at – more than twice that of the highest commercial airline traffic (42,000 feet), and well beyond the operational ceiling of the US Air Force’s U-2 spy plane (70,000 feet).
The world’s highest Wi-Fi hotspot
The Thales FlytLINK™ Connectivity Demonstrator, developed by Thales in the UK, completed beta testing in Nevada in the US and will undergo final tests in Patagonia ahead of the record attempt. The demonstrator, set to become the world’s highest ever Wi-Fi hotspot on an aircraft, will connect the glider to the ground via the Iridium Certus-based satellite communications network.
The live stream is made possible and will be delivered via Videosoft Global’s next-generation FireLight software, an ultra-low bandwidth streaming solution developed by the specialist video compression company. The real-time transmission will be broadcast via Thales FlytLINK™ terminal to the Iridium network at a data rate of only 22kbps.
This will give an astonishing front-row view to followers on the ground as the glider soars to the edge of space.
As well as live streaming video, Thales FlytLINK™ Connectivity Demonstrator has other real-time onboard applications. These include sharing the glider’s location and orientation, AI-optimised flight planning, and providing up-to-date weather information to pilots.
"Although we have customers around the globe using our software, this is the first time anyone’s been able to stream secure live video over a commercial satellite network from 90,000 feet with such a small amount of bandwidth. We feel privileged to be part of such an important aviation project." says Stewart McCone, CEO, Videosoft Global
A new era for the connected aircraft
Building on more than 30 years’ experience in satellite communications, Thales FlytLINK™ Connectivity Demonstrator helps showcase the capabilities of Thales’ new FlytLINK™ portfolio. A portfolio offering world-class airborne satellite communications equipment, airtime and services.
"The demonstrator has proved its broad connectivity capabilities, but what’s really exciting is how we can integrate them into the Airbus Perlan Mission 2 platform to beam down live video to the ground, so everyone has a bird’s eye view and can experience the world record attempt with the crew."Gary Dent, Head of Civil Avionics Solutions at Thales Avionics.
The ‘Connected Aircraft’ is now a reality. And thanks to recent advances in satellite and security technology, pilots, crews and passengers can all benefit from secure, reliable in-flight connectivity. Connectivity that improves operational performance, increases flight efficiencies, reduces emissions, and enhances the onboard experience for everyone, including passengers.