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Valour Announces Several Key Improvements to its Quarterly IFE and IFC Trackers

In 2016, to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market, Valour Consultancy launched a quarterly tracker product designed to keep those with a vested interest in the area updated on installation activity and key trends. One year later, we announced a similar product, which tracks the market for wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) systems. Both trackers were the first of their kind and have proved to be extremely popular with our client base, which, we’re proud to say, consists of a “who’s who” of the IFEC and cabin technology value chain.

Not content to rest on our laurels, and in keeping with our ongoing commitment to continually improve and adapt, both products have undergone a transformation in 2020. The quarterly IFC tracker, for example, has been hugely expanded to show the total addressable market of aircraft that have not yet installed a system and are not currently earmarked to have one fitted in future. As a result of the massive disruption caused by COVID-19, we also added a new feature allowing users to see which connected aircraft are currently active, versus those that are grounded. The quarterly W-IFE tracker saw the “W” dropped as we expanded our focus to the entirety of the IFE market, providing data on seatback and overhead IFE system equipage, in addition to wireless. Another addition to the IFE data was the inclusion of server and WAP manufacturers for each deployment.

The biggest change, however, is the way in which we present this data. For the last four years, subscribers have received an Excel workbook containing current and historic data, as well as a PowerPoint summary detailing key announcements during the reporting period and its effect on the numbers contained within. Starting with the IFC tracker, we’ve now created an additional online user-friendly dashboard that allows clients to better visualise and interact with the data. It includes:

  • Dynamic charts that allow you to remove specific data and export them to JPEGs for your presentations
  • Raw quarterly data that can be filtered based on your query and exported to CSV or Excel
  • Raw addressable market data that can be filtered based on your query and exported to CSV or Excel

We’re in the process of bringing to life our IFE data in the same way and starting in 2021, we’ll also begin to dive more deeply into the type of content being provided on wireless systems. This is especially important as the “E” in IFE moves away from entertainment in the traditional sense of the word and more about maximising engagement with passengers. To this end, you’ll soon be able to see whether a system shows movie/TV content, as well as games, ePublications/eBooks, destination content, seat-to-seat chat, music/other audio, buy-on-board, plus whether or not it forms the basis of an IFC portal too.

Looking ahead, we’ve every intention of continuing to modernise our deliverables to generate better insight in a more efficient way. What subscribers see today is stage one of this process and further enhancements will be made incrementally in the future. Indeed, we’re close to finalising a partnership that will give us the ability to provide IFE and IFC equipage down to the tail level. More information on this important development will be provided via the usual channels in due course.

If you’d like any additional information on these trackers or if you have any thoughts or feedback on other improvements that we could make, then we’d be delighted to hear from you. And if you’d like to arrange an online demonstration to take a closer look at what we have to offer, then please let us know. We can be reached at info@valourconsultancy.com.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5643|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/How-to-use-data-visualization-report-design-e1605715318732.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] In 2016, to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market, Valour Consultancy launched a quarterly tracker product designed to keep those with a vested interest in the area updated on installation activity and key trends. One year later, we announced a similar product, which tracks the market for wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) systems. Both trackers were the first of their kind and have proved to be extremely popular with our client base, which, we’re proud to say, consists of a “who’s who” of the IFEC and cabin technology value chain. Not content to rest on our laurels, and in keeping with our ongoing commitment to continually improve and adapt, both products have undergone a transformation in 2020. The quarterly IFC tracker, for example, has been hugely expanded to show the total addressable market of aircraft that have not yet installed a system and are not currently earmarked to have one fitted in future. As a result of the massive disruption caused by COVID-19, we also added a new feature allowing users to see which connected aircraft are currently active, versus those that are grounded. The quarterly W-IFE tracker saw the “W” dropped as we expanded our focus to the entirety of the IFE market, providing data on seatback and overhead IFE system equipage, in addition to wireless. Another addition to the IFE data was the inclusion of server and WAP manufacturers for each deployment. The biggest change, however, is the way in which we present this data. For the last four years, subscribers have received an Excel workbook containing current and historic data, as well as a PowerPoint summary detailing key announcements during the reporting period and its effect on the numbers contained within. Starting with the IFC tracker, we’ve now created an additional online user-friendly dashboard that allows clients to better visualise and interact with the data. It includes:
  • Dynamic charts that allow you to remove specific data and export them to JPEGs for your presentations
  • Raw quarterly data that can be filtered based on your query and exported to CSV or Excel
  • Raw addressable market data that can be filtered based on your query and exported to CSV or Excel
We’re in the process of bringing to life our IFE data in the same way and starting in 2021, we’ll also begin to dive more deeply into the type of content being provided on wireless systems. This is especially important as the “E” in IFE moves away from entertainment in the traditional sense of the word and more about maximising engagement with passengers. To this end, you’ll soon be able to see whether a system shows movie/TV content, as well as games, ePublications/eBooks, destination content, seat-to-seat chat, music/other audio, buy-on-board, plus whether or not it forms the basis of an IFC portal too. Looking ahead, we’ve every intention of continuing to modernise our deliverables to generate better insight in a more efficient way. What subscribers see today is stage one of this process and further enhancements will be made incrementally in the future. Indeed, we’re close to finalising a partnership that will give us the ability to provide IFE and IFC equipage down to the tail level. More information on this important development will be provided via the usual channels in due course. If you’d like any additional information on these trackers or if you have any thoughts or feedback on other improvements that we could make, then we’d be delighted to hear from you. And if you’d like to arrange an online demonstration to take a closer look at what we have to offer, then please let us know. We can be reached at info@valourconsultancy.com. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

GX+ Further Evidence North America Remains Key IFC Battleground

Many reading this will be well aware of how important the North America region has been in the context of IFC. Carriers in the region were amongst the early adopters of IFC, globally, aided by the launch of Gogo’s Air-to-Ground network, which at one point served more than 2,600 aircraft. In true chicken and egg fashion, a number of familiar names in the industry are headquartered out of North America too, most notably Astronics, the aforementioned Gogo, Global Eagle, Honeywell, Intelsat, Viasat…the list goes on. As a result, the region accounted for 89 per cent of total connections back in 2014 and this share still hovered close to the 60 per cent mark at the end of Q2 2020, despite increased IFC adoption around the world.

Over time though, broad adoption of IFC has led to the addressable market in North America falling quite substantially in recent years, down to approximately 20 per cent of commercial aircraft originating in the region. Of these aircraft yet to find a home with an IFC service provider, most are now regional jets that tend to fly short segments and are therefore arguably better suited to wireless-IFE rather than full-blown IFC. This has naturally led vendors to seek new airline wins elsewhere, with a substantial number of aircraft originating out of Asia, Europe and South America still unconnected today.

Taking the above into account, one could be forgiven for questioning the decision to launch a US-based network, as Inmarsat and Hughes did last month with the unveiling of GX+. But it is worth noting that the top 6 largest connected fleets, globally, are all based in North America, and this doesn’t factor in Air Canada, which sits 11th on that list. Furthermore, a number of the aircraft within these connected fleets are coming to the end of existing contracts and/or are equipped with first generation hardware that is quickly becoming obsolete versus current demand and the new hardware now available on the market.

For the prize on offer, one need look no further than Viasat. In the last two years or so, the Carlsbad-based internet service provider has significantly increased its installed base of connected aircraft and is estimated to have a 16 per cent share of all connected commercial aircraft at the end of Q2 2020 (up from 0.5 per cent at the end of 2017*). A majority of this increase can be attributed to the retrofit programs it has won in the U.S alone, most notably with American Airlines and jetBlue. In the case of American Airlines, Viasat added more than 500 single aisle aircraft to its network across a two-year window. Opportunities of this size, globally, are becoming increasingly rare as more of the larger established carriers now typically offer an IFC service on board or are already under contract to do so in the near future. China is a notable exception here but is excluded from the point as regulation will limit involvement from vendors that are not registered in Mainland China and have the appropriate licences. The impact of COVID-19 is also expected to dampen new opportunities, globally, through airline bankruptcies and limiting non-essential expenditure.

It is common knowledge that Inmarsat has long sought a route into the North American IFC market, and it had previously hinted at collaborating with Hughes to support its cause. But to do so at this stage, the operator will go toe-to-toe with Intelsat (through its acquisition of Gogo) and Viasat, two players which, like Inmarsat, offer customers the cost and performance benefits that come through vertical alignment; a sign of things to come, globally, in the IFC sector as far as we’re concerned. Clearly then, whilst vendors will continue to skirmish for airline wins all over the world, North America is seen as a market ripe for disruption in the coming years. This is great news for carriers in the region but is anticipated to pose a significant challenge to incumbents such as Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics that, like most, are hurting from the impact of COVID-19, but are not in the position to pass on the benefits of being vertically aligned.

*- excludes aircraft that were serviced by Thales

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5604|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/pexels-pixabay-414916-2-e1604577799216.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Many reading this will be well aware of how important the North America region has been in the context of IFC. Carriers in the region were amongst the early adopters of IFC, globally, aided by the launch of Gogo’s Air-to-Ground network, which at one point served more than 2,600 aircraft. In true chicken and egg fashion, a number of familiar names in the industry are headquartered out of North America too, most notably Astronics, the aforementioned Gogo, Global Eagle, Honeywell, Intelsat, Viasat…the list goes on. As a result, the region accounted for 89 per cent of total connections back in 2014 and this share still hovered close to the 60 per cent mark at the end of Q2 2020, despite increased IFC adoption around the world. Over time though, broad adoption of IFC has led to the addressable market in North America falling quite substantially in recent years, down to approximately 20 per cent of commercial aircraft originating in the region. Of these aircraft yet to find a home with an IFC service provider, most are now regional jets that tend to fly short segments and are therefore arguably better suited to wireless-IFE rather than full-blown IFC. This has naturally led vendors to seek new airline wins elsewhere, with a substantial number of aircraft originating out of Asia, Europe and South America still unconnected today. Taking the above into account, one could be forgiven for questioning the decision to launch a US-based network, as Inmarsat and Hughes did last month with the unveiling of GX+. But it is worth noting that the top 6 largest connected fleets, globally, are all based in North America, and this doesn’t factor in Air Canada, which sits 11th on that list. Furthermore, a number of the aircraft within these connected fleets are coming to the end of existing contracts and/or are equipped with first generation hardware that is quickly becoming obsolete versus current demand and the new hardware now available on the market. For the prize on offer, one need look no further than Viasat. In the last two years or so, the Carlsbad-based internet service provider has significantly increased its installed base of connected aircraft and is estimated to have a 16 per cent share of all connected commercial aircraft at the end of Q2 2020 (up from 0.5 per cent at the end of 2017*). A majority of this increase can be attributed to the retrofit programs it has won in the U.S alone, most notably with American Airlines and jetBlue. In the case of American Airlines, Viasat added more than 500 single aisle aircraft to its network across a two-year window. Opportunities of this size, globally, are becoming increasingly rare as more of the larger established carriers now typically offer an IFC service on board or are already under contract to do so in the near future. China is a notable exception here but is excluded from the point as regulation will limit involvement from vendors that are not registered in Mainland China and have the appropriate licences. The impact of COVID-19 is also expected to dampen new opportunities, globally, through airline bankruptcies and limiting non-essential expenditure. It is common knowledge that Inmarsat has long sought a route into the North American IFC market, and it had previously hinted at collaborating with Hughes to support its cause. But to do so at this stage, the operator will go toe-to-toe with Intelsat (through its acquisition of Gogo) and Viasat, two players which, like Inmarsat, offer customers the cost and performance benefits that come through vertical alignment; a sign of things to come, globally, in the IFC sector as far as we’re concerned. Clearly then, whilst vendors will continue to skirmish for airline wins all over the world, North America is seen as a market ripe for disruption in the coming years. This is great news for carriers in the region but is anticipated to pose a significant challenge to incumbents such as Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics that, like most, are hurting from the impact of COVID-19, but are not in the position to pass on the benefits of being vertically aligned. *- excludes aircraft that were serviced by Thales [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Biometrics and Digital Identity are Key in Ensuring the Future of Air Travel

Guest blog written by John Devlin, co-founder of P.A.ID Strategies, with whom we are partnered on producing a soon-to-be published report on smart airport technologies.

Air travel has been massively impacted and disrupted in the past six months. Until Covid-19 hit, the biggest challenge facing airport operators and airlines was how to cope with an ever-increasing demand for air travel and the limited infrastructure to support it. Now, they are scrambling for survival as the industry has been turned on its head and looking to cut costs and develop new means of handling and processing passengers.

Here are a few points demonstrating how steep a cliff the industry has fallen off:

  • At the height of the pandemic and lockdowns in various countries, passenger volumes were down over 90% and in August were still ~80% down on the same time last year in the peak summer months
  • As a result, the Airports Council International (ACI) stated that airports globally will see an expected drop in income of $104.5 billion in 2020 with passenger volumes revised down from 9.4 to 3.8 billion (a 59.6% decline)
  • Heathrow Airport alone estimates that Covid-19 has cost it £1 billion since March
  • Gatwick Airport, London, announced in its 1H20 results that passenger numbers were down 66% for the first 6 months of the year, with revenues declining 61.3% effecting a loss of £321 million

It doesn’t stop there. Whilst flight volumes are increasing, passenger numbers are lagging. The bulk of an airport’s operating costs are related to airport movements whilst their revenues come from passenger spend, which further increases price pressure on airports.

  • Accordingly, Gatwick has cut CAPEX by £157 million this year and plans cuts of £196 million for 2021 with OPEX reduced by £100 million – but this is by compromising and consolidating air traffic into a single terminal, over 70% of staff furloughed and large scale redundancies are planned

Whilst the numbers are (slowly) ticking upwards, our expectation is that passenger volumes will have only recovered to near 2019 numbers by 2023-24, so it is important for airports and airlines to find new, more efficient ways to operate their businesses and recover at least some of their lost revenues.

New Partnerships, Processes and Strategies to Ensure Survival and Plan for the Future

Airports and airlines are looking to implement solutions to enhance “safety” (or the perception of it) and encourage passengers back to fill the flights that are taking place. There are various approaches and technologies that can help them do this. We initially looked at the adoption of biometrics and digital identity in airports three years ago and there has been an increasing number of pilots and trials in the time since. COVID-19 will only accelerate adoption of eGates and self-service kiosks with airports keen to reduce costs and increase efficiency with more automation so that they can prioritise their resources to where needed given the huge drop-off in passenger volumes.

Additionally, new business models and partnerships are being explored by sector specialists so that airports, airlines and traditional suppliers can work together more closely. There is also a move away from the bespoke solutions typically demanded in aviation to more COTS approaches and more use of the public cloud to knit all the various systems together and reduce costs, improve delivery times, etc.

Further, the sector is looking to reassure travellers by reducing human interactions and minimising necessary contact. The added advantage is that these solutions also (typically) reduce OPEX and increase efficiency, plus give more control and increase digital footprint, which gives more data on users and can help drive further advances with analytics and track and trace (if necessary and acceptable).

A Smarter and Better Passenger Experience Utilising Biometrics, Digital Identity and Mobile

There is even a potential silver lining, once the immediate concerns have been addressed. Whilst numbers are depressed, airports and airlines are able to restructure their businesses and operational processes, form new partnerships, adopt new business models and plan how they will not only recover but build back better. If they are able to garner industry and government support, new standards and processes, based upon smartphones, biometrics and digital identity, can be designed and implemented to give the customer more choice and flexibility without the restrictions of traditional inspections. Want to have your bag-tags automatically printed when you enter the airport? And to create a biometric token when you get to the airport so you can seamlessly make your way through all passenger checkpoints and board your plane without having to repeatedly show your passport and boarding pass? How about checking-in to your flight when checking out of your hotel? Give permission for the airline to share your digital identity with your destination country for quicker passage through customs and border control? Well, soon we may be able to do just that.

Note: P.A.ID Strategies and Valour Consultancy have combined their respective areas of expertise in biometrics, identity, security and aviation to develop a new market research report entitled “The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports”. The report will assess the potential for biometrics, digital identity and smart solutions for self-service, automation and traveller processing to improve the passenger experience, increase efficiency and build revenue streams for airports and airlines as they initially cope with the disruption resulting from COVID-19 and plan their strategies to recover and build back better. More information and the report proposal can be found here: https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/The-Seamless-Passenger-Journey-in-Smart-Airports-Report-Proposal.pdf

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5530|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/smart-airports-e1597674386482.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Guest blog written by John Devlin, co-founder of P.A.ID Strategies, with whom we are partnered on producing a soon-to-be published report on smart airport technologies. Air travel has been massively impacted and disrupted in the past six months. Until Covid-19 hit, the biggest challenge facing airport operators and airlines was how to cope with an ever-increasing demand for air travel and the limited infrastructure to support it. Now, they are scrambling for survival as the industry has been turned on its head and looking to cut costs and develop new means of handling and processing passengers. Here are a few points demonstrating how steep a cliff the industry has fallen off:
  • At the height of the pandemic and lockdowns in various countries, passenger volumes were down over 90% and in August were still ~80% down on the same time last year in the peak summer months
  • As a result, the Airports Council International (ACI) stated that airports globally will see an expected drop in income of $104.5 billion in 2020 with passenger volumes revised down from 9.4 to 3.8 billion (a 59.6% decline)
  • Heathrow Airport alone estimates that Covid-19 has cost it £1 billion since March
  • Gatwick Airport, London, announced in its 1H20 results that passenger numbers were down 66% for the first 6 months of the year, with revenues declining 61.3% effecting a loss of £321 million
It doesn’t stop there. Whilst flight volumes are increasing, passenger numbers are lagging. The bulk of an airport’s operating costs are related to airport movements whilst their revenues come from passenger spend, which further increases price pressure on airports.
  • Accordingly, Gatwick has cut CAPEX by £157 million this year and plans cuts of £196 million for 2021 with OPEX reduced by £100 million – but this is by compromising and consolidating air traffic into a single terminal, over 70% of staff furloughed and large scale redundancies are planned
Whilst the numbers are (slowly) ticking upwards, our expectation is that passenger volumes will have only recovered to near 2019 numbers by 2023-24, so it is important for airports and airlines to find new, more efficient ways to operate their businesses and recover at least some of their lost revenues. New Partnerships, Processes and Strategies to Ensure Survival and Plan for the Future Airports and airlines are looking to implement solutions to enhance “safety” (or the perception of it) and encourage passengers back to fill the flights that are taking place. There are various approaches and technologies that can help them do this. We initially looked at the adoption of biometrics and digital identity in airports three years ago and there has been an increasing number of pilots and trials in the time since. COVID-19 will only accelerate adoption of eGates and self-service kiosks with airports keen to reduce costs and increase efficiency with more automation so that they can prioritise their resources to where needed given the huge drop-off in passenger volumes. Additionally, new business models and partnerships are being explored by sector specialists so that airports, airlines and traditional suppliers can work together more closely. There is also a move away from the bespoke solutions typically demanded in aviation to more COTS approaches and more use of the public cloud to knit all the various systems together and reduce costs, improve delivery times, etc. Further, the sector is looking to reassure travellers by reducing human interactions and minimising necessary contact. The added advantage is that these solutions also (typically) reduce OPEX and increase efficiency, plus give more control and increase digital footprint, which gives more data on users and can help drive further advances with analytics and track and trace (if necessary and acceptable). A Smarter and Better Passenger Experience Utilising Biometrics, Digital Identity and Mobile There is even a potential silver lining, once the immediate concerns have been addressed. Whilst numbers are depressed, airports and airlines are able to restructure their businesses and operational processes, form new partnerships, adopt new business models and plan how they will not only recover but build back better. If they are able to garner industry and government support, new standards and processes, based upon smartphones, biometrics and digital identity, can be designed and implemented to give the customer more choice and flexibility without the restrictions of traditional inspections. Want to have your bag-tags automatically printed when you enter the airport? And to create a biometric token when you get to the airport so you can seamlessly make your way through all passenger checkpoints and board your plane without having to repeatedly show your passport and boarding pass? How about checking-in to your flight when checking out of your hotel? Give permission for the airline to share your digital identity with your destination country for quicker passage through customs and border control? Well, soon we may be able to do just that. Note: P.A.ID Strategies and Valour Consultancy have combined their respective areas of expertise in biometrics, identity, security and aviation to develop a new market research report entitled "The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports". The report will assess the potential for biometrics, digital identity and smart solutions for self-service, automation and traveller processing to improve the passenger experience, increase efficiency and build revenue streams for airports and airlines as they initially cope with the disruption resulting from COVID-19 and plan their strategies to recover and build back better. More information and the report proposal can be found here: https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/The-Seamless-Passenger-Journey-in-Smart-Airports-Report-Proposal.pdf [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

With New LCC Announcements Set to Come, Wireless IFE Remains Robust in the Face of COVID

One of the first questions we were asked once the enormity of the COVID-19 situation became apparent some seven months ago was its likely impact on the in-flight entertainment (IFE) industry. Indeed, one of the messages we received from a well-respected name in the industry back in March was that he suspected “traditional IFE would not bounce back”. At that time, it was not hard to see why. Throughout the travel continuum, there is an obvious reluctance for people to interact with touchscreens of any kind, be they installed in the seatback or situated on a kiosk in the airport check-in area. In fact, the decision has, in some cases, been taken out of the hands of passengers and airlines alike. India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, for example, suspended the use of seatback displays as a health and safety measure to limit the spread of the virus.

Then there are the not insignificant costs associated with content acquisition and maintenance, which have already compelled financially squeezed airlines to switch off systems and in some cases, I’m sure, think twice about whether they want to install the technology in future. Additionally, seatback IFE is inextricably tied to the hugely impacted wide-body market – almost every one of these aircraft is delivered with an embedded system fitted at the factory and this has been the case for years now. To put this into perspective, a total of 76 twin-aisle aircraft (excluding freighters and so-called bizliners) were delivered by Airbus and Boeing between the start of this year and August 31st. In the same period last year, the number was 212. That’s a 64 per cent reduction in the number of aircraft that would normally make up a sizeable portion of the seatback IFE market.

Sadly, the prospects for wide-bodies in the short- to medium term don’t look all that rosy either. According to our own internal forecast, deliveries won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until around 2026. We must also consider that the attach rate for seatback IFE on narrow-bodies has been falling for a while now. There have been several recent high profile examples where carriers – particularly in North America where adoption of seatback IFE in the single aisle market has always been higher – have opted against fitting these systems on their newest aircraft. In 2019, the attach rate stood at just under 26 per cent and we expect this to fall to 13 per cent by 2030. The decline would be even more pronounced were it not for the forthcoming arrival of long range single aisle aircraft like the Airbus A321XLR (and any rival Boeing might bring out in the next few years), which will doubtless be equipped with wide-body-esque amenities.

Enter wireless IFE (W-IFE), which has exhibited remarkable growth in recent years, and which looks set to continue on this trajectory from here on in. Why? Two reasons: First, W-IFE costs a lot less than seatback IFE – an extremely important consideration in these unprecedented times. In fact, we estimate that the average cost per seat for W-IFE (both fixed and portable) was about $381 in 2019. The equivalent figure for seatback IFE was just over $6,000. And it’s getting less expensive too thanks to a frankly insane number of vendors vying for a slice of the pie and with new entrants joining the party all the time. VuLiv and GoMedia being the two most recent examples. Second, W-IFE, by its very nature, means using your own device, which is undeniably preferable to touching a screen many others have come into contact with previously. In the interests of balance, cleaning regimes have been stepped up a notch since the pandemic was declared and our expectation is that the PED will become the de-facto control device for seatback systems in future. Furthermore, hardware development has arguably reached its zenith and rapid commoditisation will ensure that the cost per seat of seatback IFE will fall hugely over the next few years. As airline balance sheets improve, its current unattractiveness will somewhat reverse.

W-IFE also provides the foundation for airlines to exit the stone age, radically transform their operations and exploit much-needed new ancillary revenue opportunities. With paper based menu cards and the in-flight magazine now a thing of the past, the “E” in “IFE” is rapidly becoming less about entertainment in the traditional sense of the word and more about maximising engagement with passengers. We need only look to Ryanair as an example. The notoriously cost-conscious LCC is set to launch a new W-IFE solution next month on 50 aircraft and a key part of the proposition is a touchless shopping experience for food, beverages and other goods and services. The platform will also support targeted and measurable advertising based initially on the passenger’s language, the origin and destination of flights and the content viewed. My spies tell me that other well-known LCCs in Europe and Asia will announce that they are launching similar solutions before the end of this year, while many airlines that have already adopted W-IFE will also enable digital buy-on-board in the very near future.

What does all this mean in numerical terms? Well, we think that 2020 will end up seeing just over 1,100 installations of W-IFE. This represents a decline of about 19 per cent year-on-year – a quite remarkable feat given the utter devastation the virus has wreaked upon the industry. In addition to those set to reveal their hands before the year is out, airlines new to the world of W-IFE that have commenced (or significantly expanded) rollouts include: Spicejet, the IAG Group and Lion Air Group. Combined, this activity will see the W-IFE installed base grow to 8,261 – up from 7,975 in 2019. The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that last year’s installed base plus this year’s expected installs does not equal the projected installed based for 2020. And that’s because there were a large number of systems deducted from the total due to aircraft retirements and de-installations. By 2030, we believe that the number of aircraft with a W-IFE system will grow to exceed 21,000.

Given the evidence before us, it would be quite easy to agree with the industry contact mentioned at the beginning of this blog and declare that seatback systems have finally entered into a terminal decline after previous reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. That is not the view we’d take, however. Airlines will increasingly move towards ensuring passengers encounter multiple transient hardware interfaces on longer journeys, each supported by cloud services and enabling a hyper-personalised lifestyle experience. The passenger PED will become the continuity and comfort display, or the companion that connects their entire journey. The IFE screen will become secondary in value and the conduit through which all manner of traditional and non-traditional content – consistent with the airlines’ brand positioning and passenger preferences – will be displayed. In short, an enabler of services. Seatback IFE is still not dead, therefore, it will just be reborn under a different guise.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5583|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/ryanair-aircraft-2-scaled-e1602592213142.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] One of the first questions we were asked once the enormity of the COVID-19 situation became apparent some seven months ago was its likely impact on the in-flight entertainment (IFE) industry. Indeed, one of the messages we received from a well-respected name in the industry back in March was that he suspected “traditional IFE would not bounce back”. At that time, it was not hard to see why. Throughout the travel continuum, there is an obvious reluctance for people to interact with touchscreens of any kind, be they installed in the seatback or situated on a kiosk in the airport check-in area. In fact, the decision has, in some cases, been taken out of the hands of passengers and airlines alike. India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, for example, suspended the use of seatback displays as a health and safety measure to limit the spread of the virus. Then there are the not insignificant costs associated with content acquisition and maintenance, which have already compelled financially squeezed airlines to switch off systems and in some cases, I’m sure, think twice about whether they want to install the technology in future. Additionally, seatback IFE is inextricably tied to the hugely impacted wide-body market – almost every one of these aircraft is delivered with an embedded system fitted at the factory and this has been the case for years now. To put this into perspective, a total of 76 twin-aisle aircraft (excluding freighters and so-called bizliners) were delivered by Airbus and Boeing between the start of this year and August 31st. In the same period last year, the number was 212. That’s a 64 per cent reduction in the number of aircraft that would normally make up a sizeable portion of the seatback IFE market. Sadly, the prospects for wide-bodies in the short- to medium term don’t look all that rosy either. According to our own internal forecast, deliveries won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until around 2026. We must also consider that the attach rate for seatback IFE on narrow-bodies has been falling for a while now. There have been several recent high profile examples where carriers – particularly in North America where adoption of seatback IFE in the single aisle market has always been higher – have opted against fitting these systems on their newest aircraft. In 2019, the attach rate stood at just under 26 per cent and we expect this to fall to 13 per cent by 2030. The decline would be even more pronounced were it not for the forthcoming arrival of long range single aisle aircraft like the Airbus A321XLR (and any rival Boeing might bring out in the next few years), which will doubtless be equipped with wide-body-esque amenities. Enter wireless IFE (W-IFE), which has exhibited remarkable growth in recent years, and which looks set to continue on this trajectory from here on in. Why? Two reasons: First, W-IFE costs a lot less than seatback IFE – an extremely important consideration in these unprecedented times. In fact, we estimate that the average cost per seat for W-IFE (both fixed and portable) was about $381 in 2019. The equivalent figure for seatback IFE was just over $6,000. And it’s getting less expensive too thanks to a frankly insane number of vendors vying for a slice of the pie and with new entrants joining the party all the time. VuLiv and GoMedia being the two most recent examples. Second, W-IFE, by its very nature, means using your own device, which is undeniably preferable to touching a screen many others have come into contact with previously. In the interests of balance, cleaning regimes have been stepped up a notch since the pandemic was declared and our expectation is that the PED will become the de-facto control device for seatback systems in future. Furthermore, hardware development has arguably reached its zenith and rapid commoditisation will ensure that the cost per seat of seatback IFE will fall hugely over the next few years. As airline balance sheets improve, its current unattractiveness will somewhat reverse. W-IFE also provides the foundation for airlines to exit the stone age, radically transform their operations and exploit much-needed new ancillary revenue opportunities. With paper based menu cards and the in-flight magazine now a thing of the past, the “E” in “IFE” is rapidly becoming less about entertainment in the traditional sense of the word and more about maximising engagement with passengers. We need only look to Ryanair as an example. The notoriously cost-conscious LCC is set to launch a new W-IFE solution next month on 50 aircraft and a key part of the proposition is a touchless shopping experience for food, beverages and other goods and services. The platform will also support targeted and measurable advertising based initially on the passenger's language, the origin and destination of flights and the content viewed. My spies tell me that other well-known LCCs in Europe and Asia will announce that they are launching similar solutions before the end of this year, while many airlines that have already adopted W-IFE will also enable digital buy-on-board in the very near future. What does all this mean in numerical terms? Well, we think that 2020 will end up seeing just over 1,100 installations of W-IFE. This represents a decline of about 19 per cent year-on-year – a quite remarkable feat given the utter devastation the virus has wreaked upon the industry. In addition to those set to reveal their hands before the year is out, airlines new to the world of W-IFE that have commenced (or significantly expanded) rollouts include: Spicejet, the IAG Group and Lion Air Group. Combined, this activity will see the W-IFE installed base grow to 8,261 – up from 7,975 in 2019. The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that last year’s installed base plus this year’s expected installs does not equal the projected installed based for 2020. And that’s because there were a large number of systems deducted from the total due to aircraft retirements and de-installations. By 2030, we believe that the number of aircraft with a W-IFE system will grow to exceed 21,000. Given the evidence before us, it would be quite easy to agree with the industry contact mentioned at the beginning of this blog and declare that seatback systems have finally entered into a terminal decline after previous reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. That is not the view we’d take, however. Airlines will increasingly move towards ensuring passengers encounter multiple transient hardware interfaces on longer journeys, each supported by cloud services and enabling a hyper-personalised lifestyle experience. The passenger PED will become the continuity and comfort display, or the companion that connects their entire journey. The IFE screen will become secondary in value and the conduit through which all manner of traditional and non-traditional content – consistent with the airlines’ brand positioning and passenger preferences – will be displayed. In short, an enabler of services. Seatback IFE is still not dead, therefore, it will just be reborn under a different guise. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PR: Despite Pandemic, IFC Terminal Installed Base in Business Aviation to Reach 32,000 by 2029

August 13, 2020 13:00 British Summer Time (BST)

London. A new report predicts strong take-up of in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems on business aircraft over the next ten years. According to Valour Consultancy, an award-winning provider of market intelligence services, the number of IFC terminals installed on business jets will rise to almost 32,000 in 2029 – up from 20,689 at the end of 2019.

The report – “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft” – predicts a sharp drop-off in installation activity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but sees the market picking up more quickly than commercial aviation. “Annual installations of IFC systems on business aircraft are set to fall by 28 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 said report author, Craig Foster. “While 2021 will be another tough year, the launch of several new solutions will provide impetus. Deployments from SmartSky Networks, Iridium (with Certus) and SES/Collins Aerospace (LuxStream) are all expected to ramp up at this point in time. Intelsat and Satcom Direct will resume new installs for the FlexExec service too” he continued.

Foster also highlights how the market could benefit from current and ongoing airline capacity reductions and people looking less favourably on travelling through crowded airports and in cramped commercial aircraft cabins. “So-called health corridors are starting to emerge as increased interest in flying privately from those who haven’t previously done so acts as a catalyst of the recovery. Many fractional providers are reporting that recent months have seen record enquiries from new customers. We also expect to see more business jets being used by corporations to transport employees beyond the C-suite to protect them from COVID-19 and recent moves to create more flexible business models will help support these added users” said Foster.

The report also takes a look at the closely-related markets for in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin management systems (CMS). Due to the higher costs associated with installation of these systems and private aircraft owners and operators said to be prioritising IFC when pulling back on discretionary spend, the impact of the outbreak is expected to be more profound in 2020 and 2021. “While IFE/CMS vendors have been harder hit, the adoption of wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and full CMS functionality on smaller aircraft like small cabin jets and turboprops is expected to increase, expanding the total addressable market beyond the mid- to large-cabin aircraft that have long been the staple of the market” concluded Foster.

Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft – 2020 Edition is the newest addition to the firm’s highly-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 85 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment.

Contact: info@valourconsultancy.com

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] August 13, 2020 13:00 British Summer Time (BST) London. A new report predicts strong take-up of in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems on business aircraft over the next ten years. According to Valour Consultancy, an award-winning provider of market intelligence services, the number of IFC terminals installed on business jets will rise to almost 32,000 in 2029 – up from 20,689 at the end of 2019. The report – “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft” – predicts a sharp drop-off in installation activity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but sees the market picking up more quickly than commercial aviation. “Annual installations of IFC systems on business aircraft are set to fall by 28 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 said report author, Craig Foster. “While 2021 will be another tough year, the launch of several new solutions will provide impetus. Deployments from SmartSky Networks, Iridium (with Certus) and SES/Collins Aerospace (LuxStream) are all expected to ramp up at this point in time. Intelsat and Satcom Direct will resume new installs for the FlexExec service too” he continued. Foster also highlights how the market could benefit from current and ongoing airline capacity reductions and people looking less favourably on travelling through crowded airports and in cramped commercial aircraft cabins. “So-called health corridors are starting to emerge as increased interest in flying privately from those who haven’t previously done so acts as a catalyst of the recovery. Many fractional providers are reporting that recent months have seen record enquiries from new customers. We also expect to see more business jets being used by corporations to transport employees beyond the C-suite to protect them from COVID-19 and recent moves to create more flexible business models will help support these added users” said Foster. The report also takes a look at the closely-related markets for in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin management systems (CMS). Due to the higher costs associated with installation of these systems and private aircraft owners and operators said to be prioritising IFC when pulling back on discretionary spend, the impact of the outbreak is expected to be more profound in 2020 and 2021. “While IFE/CMS vendors have been harder hit, the adoption of wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and full CMS functionality on smaller aircraft like small cabin jets and turboprops is expected to increase, expanding the total addressable market beyond the mid- to large-cabin aircraft that have long been the staple of the market” concluded Foster. Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Market for IFEC and CMS on VVIP and Business Aircraft – 2020 Edition is the newest addition to the firm’s highly-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 85 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. Contact: info@valourconsultancy.com [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Satellites Driven by DeSIRE

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) have funded two consecutive projects called DeSIRE, in 2013, and DeSIRE II (Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe), in 2015, to examine how drones might operate within controlled airspace when controlled by satellites for commercial and governmental applications. To undertake this project the consultancy and technology multinational Indra (Spain) led the first phase DeSIRE with a European industrial consortium formed by AT-One (Germany and the Netherlands), SES ASTRA (Luxembourg), Thales Alenia Space (Italy and France) and CIRA (Italy).

The purpose of the project was to check whether a RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) or drone can safely share the sky with a conventional aircraft using the transmission of its command and control communications and communications between air traffic control (ATC) and the pilot on the ground via a satellite in geostationary orbit.

The benefits of satellite communications for Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) control and data transmission and reception was that the drone was able to send, in real-time, high-quality data to the ground control station to aid maritime surveillance. This was a necessity to show that what the military have been doing for several decades could be applied equally well to civilian operations.

The drone completed a 6-hour flight in civil and military airspace, sending to the ground, via the satellite data link, the signals from its on-board sensors. The RPA climbed to 20,000 ft (6,096m), entering airspace class C, managed by AENA, the Spanish Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), from Barcelona Control Centre. The pilot of the RPA followed all the instructions issued by the AENA air traffic controllers, acting like any other civil or military aircraft. During this flight test, a manned Air Force aircraft approached, simulating frontal and 90º collision trajectories. The pilots of both aircraft followed the separation instructions issued by air traffic controllers, demonstrating the safe operation of remotely piloted aircraft in an emergency situation.

  • BVLOS flight by drones have many uses and have significant commercial potential. Applications include firefighting; fire prevention and monitoring; highway control; electricity transmission cabling inspection, critical infrastructure (such as bridges and railway lines) inspection: border surveillance; environmental protection surveillance; management of emergencies search & rescue in the framework of border control: illegal trafficking in the framework of law enforcement; fisheries control and even goods transport.

DeSIRE II, the second element of the ESA EDA RPAS project was aimed at developing and demonstrating services based on a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flying in beyond radio line of sight (BRLOS) and was completed in November 2018. From a regulatory perspective, the project had a key objective to demonstrate that the satcom link, allowed safe BRLOS Operations, potentially allowing RPAS operations in civil traffic airspace. In particular the aim provided the first set of required link performance (RLP) parameters for the RPAS C2 link (including ATC relay) following the guidelines provided by the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS), in BRLOS conditions via a dual satcom link. The project objectives were undertaken using a Piaggio Aerospace P.1HH RPAS, complemented by simulation and emulation activities.

The DeSIRE projects were supported by 26 members of the EU, excluding UK and Denmark. The UK along with the USA, Russia, China have extensive experience in flying military drones using satellite communication. Despite the challenges characterising satellite-controlled RPA systems (especially for civilian purposes), research and industrial communities are still investigating the feasibility of the introduction of RPAs into non-segregated airspace.

The benefits of drones and satellite communication are fairly transparent and many while the difficulties and costs are less clear. They fall, broadly, into four categories: signal degradation, signal latency (how long it takes to tell the drone what to do), availability and human perception.

For a ground station to communicate with a drone via satellite, the signal has to leave the station travel 40,000km to the satellite which deals with the signal and then routes it down 40,000 km to the drone. Wireless communications are corrupted by nature along the way. These corruptions include noise (general background electromagnetic signal that is added to the signal sent), Rayleigh fading (this is weakening of the signal by scattering as the signal passes through the stratosphere and ionosphere and hits and deflects from particles), Rician fading (when the signal partly cancels itself as parts of the signal spread as they leave the transmitter and arrive at the receiver on the satellite at slightly different times causing mismatch), the Doppler Effect (when the signal frequency changes slightly depending on the relative distance of source and receiver, and rain attenuation (the absorption of a microwave radio frequency signal by atmospheric rain, snow, or ice. Losses occur mostly between frequencies 11 GHz and 30 GHz). The drone has to act upon the signal and tell the ground station what it’s done. At light speed, the time is very short but it does exist. The time lapse is in the order of milliseconds which isn’t much unless you are travelling at 200 metres per second (720 kpm or 450 mph) at 20,000ft or so.

There are four common communication architectures for UAS. These are direct link, satellite, cellular, and mesh networking. Satellite-based may be the most promising solutions. The use of satellites can provide a better coverage than the use of the direct links, so that the UAS remains well connected. The typical limited bandwidth in satellite links does not really pose here an issue, because C2 protocols should not require large amount of available bandwidth. On the other hand, if user data were to be delivered, larger bandwidth may be required to meet the requirements of high data rate applications. Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can be employed; if considered, a large delay should be taken into account in the former case, while temporary disconnections are expected in the latter case.

Typical latency (how long it takes from sending the message to the UAS receiving it) is in the order of 0.25 to 0.6 seconds for GEO satellites. That’s probably acceptable for UAS  in non-civilian segregated airspace but not suitable for UAS’s operating below 200 ft.

We tend to imagine drone delivery, for example, as buzzing down the boulevards of Bognor or soaring through the streets of London  but much of the world has not configured their street furniture to allow drone access as the pictures from Delhi and Ho Chi Min City. A second’s delay in control on these roads would be a disaster.

LEO (100km to 1,500km height) satellites have a much-diminished latency of the order of 0.005 seconds. At the moment, GEO satellites and LEO satellite-constellations are owned and operated by different companies that see themselves in competition. Should one company have access to both and be able to set up a Wide-Area-Network (WAN) that UAS and ground stations could hook into, then many problems would become a thing of the past and freight drones could be easily integrated into existing air traffic management systems.

Availability measures the proportion of the year for which the communication link is operational.  High availability is expensive but worthwhile for safety, as even one second of interruption can be dangerous during remote control. To minimise the probability of an outage, parallel redundant systems are required. Triple redundancy with a voting system is commonly using in aviation.

Most satellite services are intended for passengers’ personal electronic devices’ connectivity rather than video streaming from a UAS platform, so care was taken when identifying the Forward Link and Reverse Link data rates. Global Xpress has global GEO coverage, only 99.9% availability, so it should be combined with another service. It operates at Ka-band frequencies (26 – 40 GHz).

Intelsat Epic currently covers 60 degrees North to 60 degrees South latitude the majority of land, and surrounding seas but missing big chunks of the polar regions.

The Iridium NEXT service has a high data rate of 1.5 Mbps forward link and 512 kbps return link. It uses LEO satellites to reduce the latency.

Is the general public ready for automated planes without pilots on-board? It boils down to politics and economics.

While the technology promises to revolutionise air travel and freight, it will cost pilots jobs. Given that many prognoses suggest that 800,000 pilots will be needed over the next two decades, that may not be such a burden. However, the shut-down of international travel during the Covid-19 crisis has taught us not to take anything for granted. It may well be that passenger airplanes may take longer to convert to the absence of pilots but freight lines such as Fedex Express, Emirates SkyCargo, UPS Airlines and Cathay Pacific Cargo might just embrace the concepts. The airline industry employs tens of thousands of pilots worldwide and they tend to be very vocal and political when they are unhappy. We can see the problem when we think of the railways, particularly in the UK and France, struggle to streamline their on-board staff. Trains run on rails and don’t really need drivers, let alone guards. We can only imagine the kerfuffle if on-board staff on airplanes are reduced or removed.

Economically, remotely-piloted or even AI-controlled (Smart) planes make perfect sense. The insurance industry needs data but, given that, by far, the greatest cause of airplane mishaps can be traced back to human error, it follows that premiums should fall. Insurance companies don’t like falling premiums so it is certain that the risks of errant code (as was the case of the Boeing 737 Max) or hacking will be brought to bear until sufficient data either negates or proves the concern. Removing pilots worldwide would save an incredible amount of money. Swiss bank UBS estimates that removing humans from the commercial cockpit could produce savings upwards of $35bn (£28bn) annually. That figure would boost profits in an industry that has often struggled to make money. For more information on Valour Consultancy’s latest report on the Commercial UAS platform study, click here.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5440|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Piaggio-Aerospace-P.1HH.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) have funded two consecutive projects called DeSIRE, in 2013, and DeSIRE II (Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe), in 2015, to examine how drones might operate within controlled airspace when controlled by satellites for commercial and governmental applications. To undertake this project the consultancy and technology multinational Indra (Spain) led the first phase DeSIRE with a European industrial consortium formed by AT-One (Germany and the Netherlands), SES ASTRA (Luxembourg), Thales Alenia Space (Italy and France) and CIRA (Italy). The purpose of the project was to check whether a RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) or drone can safely share the sky with a conventional aircraft using the transmission of its command and control communications and communications between air traffic control (ATC) and the pilot on the ground via a satellite in geostationary orbit. The benefits of satellite communications for Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) control and data transmission and reception was that the drone was able to send, in real-time, high-quality data to the ground control station to aid maritime surveillance. This was a necessity to show that what the military have been doing for several decades could be applied equally well to civilian operations. The drone completed a 6-hour flight in civil and military airspace, sending to the ground, via the satellite data link, the signals from its on-board sensors. The RPA climbed to 20,000 ft (6,096m), entering airspace class C, managed by AENA, the Spanish Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), from Barcelona Control Centre. The pilot of the RPA followed all the instructions issued by the AENA air traffic controllers, acting like any other civil or military aircraft. During this flight test, a manned Air Force aircraft approached, simulating frontal and 90º collision trajectories. The pilots of both aircraft followed the separation instructions issued by air traffic controllers, demonstrating the safe operation of remotely piloted aircraft in an emergency situation.
  • BVLOS flight by drones have many uses and have significant commercial potential. Applications include firefighting; fire prevention and monitoring; highway control; electricity transmission cabling inspection, critical infrastructure (such as bridges and railway lines) inspection: border surveillance; environmental protection surveillance; management of emergencies search & rescue in the framework of border control: illegal trafficking in the framework of law enforcement; fisheries control and even goods transport.
DeSIRE II, the second element of the ESA EDA RPAS project was aimed at developing and demonstrating services based on a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flying in beyond radio line of sight (BRLOS) and was completed in November 2018. From a regulatory perspective, the project had a key objective to demonstrate that the satcom link, allowed safe BRLOS Operations, potentially allowing RPAS operations in civil traffic airspace. In particular the aim provided the first set of required link performance (RLP) parameters for the RPAS C2 link (including ATC relay) following the guidelines provided by the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS), in BRLOS conditions via a dual satcom link. The project objectives were undertaken using a Piaggio Aerospace P.1HH RPAS, complemented by simulation and emulation activities. The DeSIRE projects were supported by 26 members of the EU, excluding UK and Denmark. The UK along with the USA, Russia, China have extensive experience in flying military drones using satellite communication. Despite the challenges characterising satellite-controlled RPA systems (especially for civilian purposes), research and industrial communities are still investigating the feasibility of the introduction of RPAs into non-segregated airspace. The benefits of drones and satellite communication are fairly transparent and many while the difficulties and costs are less clear. They fall, broadly, into four categories: signal degradation, signal latency (how long it takes to tell the drone what to do), availability and human perception. For a ground station to communicate with a drone via satellite, the signal has to leave the station travel 40,000km to the satellite which deals with the signal and then routes it down 40,000 km to the drone. Wireless communications are corrupted by nature along the way. These corruptions include noise (general background electromagnetic signal that is added to the signal sent), Rayleigh fading (this is weakening of the signal by scattering as the signal passes through the stratosphere and ionosphere and hits and deflects from particles), Rician fading (when the signal partly cancels itself as parts of the signal spread as they leave the transmitter and arrive at the receiver on the satellite at slightly different times causing mismatch), the Doppler Effect (when the signal frequency changes slightly depending on the relative distance of source and receiver, and rain attenuation (the absorption of a microwave radio frequency signal by atmospheric rain, snow, or ice. Losses occur mostly between frequencies 11 GHz and 30 GHz). The drone has to act upon the signal and tell the ground station what it’s done. At light speed, the time is very short but it does exist. The time lapse is in the order of milliseconds which isn’t much unless you are travelling at 200 metres per second (720 kpm or 450 mph) at 20,000ft or so. There are four common communication architectures for UAS. These are direct link, satellite, cellular, and mesh networking. Satellite-based may be the most promising solutions. The use of satellites can provide a better coverage than the use of the direct links, so that the UAS remains well connected. The typical limited bandwidth in satellite links does not really pose here an issue, because C2 protocols should not require large amount of available bandwidth. On the other hand, if user data were to be delivered, larger bandwidth may be required to meet the requirements of high data rate applications. Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can be employed; if considered, a large delay should be taken into account in the former case, while temporary disconnections are expected in the latter case. Typical latency (how long it takes from sending the message to the UAS receiving it) is in the order of 0.25 to 0.6 seconds for GEO satellites. That’s probably acceptable for UAS  in non-civilian segregated airspace but not suitable for UAS’s operating below 200 ft. We tend to imagine drone delivery, for example, as buzzing down the boulevards of Bognor or soaring through the streets of London  but much of the world has not configured their street furniture to allow drone access as the pictures from Delhi and Ho Chi Min City. A second’s delay in control on these roads would be a disaster. LEO (100km to 1,500km height) satellites have a much-diminished latency of the order of 0.005 seconds. At the moment, GEO satellites and LEO satellite-constellations are owned and operated by different companies that see themselves in competition. Should one company have access to both and be able to set up a Wide-Area-Network (WAN) that UAS and ground stations could hook into, then many problems would become a thing of the past and freight drones could be easily integrated into existing air traffic management systems. Availability measures the proportion of the year for which the communication link is operational.  High availability is expensive but worthwhile for safety, as even one second of interruption can be dangerous during remote control. To minimise the probability of an outage, parallel redundant systems are required. Triple redundancy with a voting system is commonly using in aviation. Most satellite services are intended for passengers’ personal electronic devices’ connectivity rather than video streaming from a UAS platform, so care was taken when identifying the Forward Link and Reverse Link data rates. Global Xpress has global GEO coverage, only 99.9% availability, so it should be combined with another service. It operates at Ka-band frequencies (26 – 40 GHz). Intelsat Epic currently covers 60 degrees North to 60 degrees South latitude the majority of land, and surrounding seas but missing big chunks of the polar regions. The Iridium NEXT service has a high data rate of 1.5 Mbps forward link and 512 kbps return link. It uses LEO satellites to reduce the latency. Is the general public ready for automated planes without pilots on-board? It boils down to politics and economics. While the technology promises to revolutionise air travel and freight, it will cost pilots jobs. Given that many prognoses suggest that 800,000 pilots will be needed over the next two decades, that may not be such a burden. However, the shut-down of international travel during the Covid-19 crisis has taught us not to take anything for granted. It may well be that passenger airplanes may take longer to convert to the absence of pilots but freight lines such as Fedex Express, Emirates SkyCargo, UPS Airlines and Cathay Pacific Cargo might just embrace the concepts. The airline industry employs tens of thousands of pilots worldwide and they tend to be very vocal and political when they are unhappy. We can see the problem when we think of the railways, particularly in the UK and France, struggle to streamline their on-board staff. Trains run on rails and don’t really need drivers, let alone guards. We can only imagine the kerfuffle if on-board staff on airplanes are reduced or removed. Economically, remotely-piloted or even AI-controlled (Smart) planes make perfect sense. The insurance industry needs data but, given that, by far, the greatest cause of airplane mishaps can be traced back to human error, it follows that premiums should fall. Insurance companies don’t like falling premiums so it is certain that the risks of errant code (as was the case of the Boeing 737 Max) or hacking will be brought to bear until sufficient data either negates or proves the concern. Removing pilots worldwide would save an incredible amount of money. Swiss bank UBS estimates that removing humans from the commercial cockpit could produce savings upwards of $35bn (£28bn) annually. That figure would boost profits in an industry that has often struggled to make money. For more information on Valour Consultancy's latest report on the Commercial UAS platform study, click here. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

UTM in the Wilds

“I don’t see how he can ever finish, if he doesn’t begin.”

Alice thought to herself that unmanned traffic management should be easy, so she checked several countries that are beginning and this is what she found. In the Asia/Pacific region, there is practical experimentation but a willingness to standardise, Russia is ploughing its own furrow and Europe has developed a series of modular trials to have a co-ordinated commercialised traffic management system. The UK has also instituted a similar research group, Catapult Connected Places (CPC). The concept of integrated traffic management and logistics has yet to be addressed for U-space (U-space is that volume of the atmosphere that would normally accommodate urban drones, say, up to 200m above ground level (AGL).

The opportunities for Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems is that all the systems so far produced are created by private companies. This implies that the system has to be commercially viable, it has to make some profit. It also requires common standards and communication protocols. Such standards and protocols are gradually emerging from bodies such as ASTM, ANSI, STANAG (NATO Standard) and IEEE. Autonomous shipping faces the same problem.

For drones, clearly, passenger ticket tax, which pays the majority of the budget for conventional air traffic management, is not applicable. A simple fee for every flight, while obvious, has the knock-on effect that to make more money, more flights are needed, and the situation becomes another clogged system and the incentive to improve the system is diminished. An annual subscription or fee per miles flown or some combination of them all might be desirable. On the plus side, UTM systems lend themselves to automation so that there needs to be few humans employed. An ideal system might be an AI controlled system with integrated machine learning that allows only drones that can log on and have a credit account associated with them, and thus pay their fee, to take off. However, in the hands of a private company, such a system is open to abuse (as is one controlled by any government but that is a separate issue).

Many of the differences between conventional Air Traffic Management (ATM) and U-space have to do with scale. Drone traffic will be far denser than passenger jet traffic. Drone information services need to be significantly more detailed, diverse and dynamic than those used by aircraft today. Safety critical information will be needed at a much higher fidelity and speed than today’s ATM, and will include geospatial information services to ensure surface clearance, local weather information to calculate drone trajectory uncertainties and non-conventional navigation sources (such as signals of opportunity and vision-based navigation) to allow for more precise navigation on a local scale. Some of this can be delegated to on-board AI. Services of this level of fidelity require the movement and provision of massive amounts of data to a wide array of users spread out over a large geographical area and, perhaps await complete 5G coverage.

In Shenzhen, China, the home of DJI, since December 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) controllers and city police in are currently managing over 2,000 drone flights a day following the introduction of a city-wide UTM system called Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management Information Service System of CAAC (UTMISS). This system covers low altitude in segregated airspaces below 120m above ground level (AGL). The airspace is divided in a grid manner. UTMISS provides civil UAS with air traffic management functions for the local civil aviation authority. UTMISS adopts a distributed hybrid cloud infrastructure for safety and security purposes, and data process capability, also allowing expandability.

In Korea, PRODRONE has a commercialised UTM system collaborating with LG U+, a South Korean cellular carrier capitalising on its 99.5 per cent 4G coverage. The 5G penetration of 9.67 per cent, represents the highest penetration rate in the world and this is expected to cover the entire country by 2028. The “U+ Smart Drone UTM System,” enables a drone to fly safely for disaster monitoring and logistic transport in BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). They have demonstrated an autonomous drone taking off in a remote location, carrying out duties and returning to a control centre on its own. The system confirms the drone’s position and elevation through the UTM system in BVLOS. Drone operators in a control room can control drones everywhere over land in the country, wherever the network is connected. It makes possible multi-person monitoring and creating a flight plan for multiple drones, useful in many applications.

In Japan, which has a long history of drone deployment for agriculture, a UTM system allowing many drone operators to share data, such as critical flight variables was tested in October 2019. The system, developed by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) and others, trialled 100 flights per square kilometre for an hour and were completed at the Fukushima Robot Test Field, about 20km north of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The drones had flight control devices fitted to report their position and speed to the UTM system. Security of the network was achieved with firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS). Authentication keys were allotted to drone operators permitting only approved operators to connect. Flight plan management and flight conditions assumed multiple simultaneous drone-use scenarios such as multiple drone weather observation, and multi-drone formation flights for delivery. Amongst others, Sky Perfect conducted flight tests in BVLOS mode as in disaster damaged areas where, perhaps, ground communication is not available. Position and flight condition data from the drones and control via communication satellites from the direct flight control function in real time was achieved. Hitachi with the Japan Information and Communications Research Institute developed a location sharing device with multi-hop communications that enables long-distance BVLOS flight of multiple drones. It was demonstrated that systems equipped with collision-avoidance technologies can interconnect with the drone traffic management system. The aim was to integrate the UAS traffic management system with collision avoidance technology. JAXA developed a UTM simulator and connected a part of the simulator to the drone traffic management system verifying deconfliction of drone traffic to avoid mid-air collisions.

Russia has opted for fitting drones with transponders and the use of low-level radar. Digital radio systems (CRTS) and the Aviation Institute for Navigation Instrumentation (Navigator) have developed a system of avionics and digital ground-based equipment for radar detection of light aircraft and drones for the management and monitoring of air traffic at lower level airspace. The systems comprise small-scale air surveillance system, airborne small-sized transmission system, aircraft responder, ground proximity warning system, airborne collision warning system, navigation and landing systems and ground stations. It allows the creation of objective situational awareness for air traffic using the principle of everyone-sees-everyone. It is difficult to see how such a system without a high degree of automation might cope with extensive commercial drone use.

In the USA, a UAS Traffic Management Pilot was initiated as a research project by NASA, and then between the FAA and NASA. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System is intended to be distinct, but complementary to, the traditional FAA’s air traffic management system. The September 2019 pilot project was to develop and demonstrate a traffic management system to safely integrate drone flights within the nation’s airspace system, also creating a shared information network and gathering data. Using mature commercial technologies for UTM including flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services for these drones operating under 400 feet AGL, there will be a cooperative interaction between drone operators and the FAA to determine and communicate real-time airspace status. The FAA will provide real-time constraints to the UAS operators, who are responsible for managing their operations safely within these constraints without receiving positive air traffic control services from the FAA.

The primary means of communication and coordination between the FAA, drone operators, and other stakeholders is through a distributed network of highly automated systems via application programming interfaces (API), and not between pilots and air traffic controllers via voice. The FAA UAS Data Exchange umbrella supports multiple partnerships, the first of which is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). Essentially the paperwork has been automated and the traffic management has been delegated to approved UTM vendors such as Aeronyde, AirMap, Airspacelink, AiRXOS, Altitude Angel, Kittyhawk, Skyward, Thales Group and UASidekick.

Many of these countries attended the third meeting of the Asia/Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force in Bangkok, in March 2019. These countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong China, Macao China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, USA and Viet Nam, were trying to achieve a common consensus on standards and legislation. India, China and Mongolia all reported on their UTM systems and security.

In Europe (not including UK which is conducting its own parallel projects), under the auspices of the Single European Sky (SES), there has been a co-ordinated series of projects to investigate building a roadmap for the safe integration of drones into all classes of airspace. This outlined the steps needed to ensure a coordinated implementation enabling RPAS to fly alongside commercial aircraft. Beginning 2017, a set of exploratory research projects was undertaken to address everything from the concept of operations for drones, critical communications, surveillance and tracking, and information management to aircraft systems, ground-based technologies, cyber-resilience and geo-fencing.

In 2018, practical demonstration projects to showcase U-space services managing a broad range of drone operations and related applications, and their interaction with manned aviation was launched. Those ranged from parcel deliveries between two dense urban locations, medical emergencies and police interventions, as well as air taxi trials in an airport-controlled airspace. Leisure use was also catered for, with projects demonstrating how private drone operators can benefit from U-space services. The operations also aimed to demonstrate different levels of automation that are possible, as well as seamless information exchange between multiple service providers in the same geographical area at the same time. In total 186 flight missions for 19 projects were made involving 19 countries. Together, they represent comprehensive preparatory work for commercial drone activities.

Stage 1 – Registration, Registration assistance, e-identification, Geo-awareness, Drone aeronautical information management.

Stage 2 – Tracking (Position report submission), Surveillance data exchange, Geo-fence provision (includes dynamic geo-fencing). Operation plan preparation /optimisation, Operation plan processing, Risk analysis assistance, Strategic Conflict Resolution, Emergency Management, Incident/ Accident reporting, Citizen reporting service, Monitoring, Traffic information, Navigation infrastructure monitoring, Communication infrastructure monitoring, Legal recording, Digital logbook, Weather information, Procedural interface with ATC.

Stage 3 – Dynamic Capacity Management, Tactical Conflict Resolution, Geospatial information service, Population density map, Electromagnetic interference information, Navigation coverage information, Communication coverage information, and Collaborative interface with ATC.

Stage 4 – Integrated interfaces with manned aviation, Additional new services such as logistical optimisation and commercialisation.

Table showing UTM Trials

There a multitude of various countries, bodies and companies trialling different UTM technologies. As in all things, several leaders will emerge and gradually coalesce into a common standard. NASA is moving things clearly in the US and in Europe, the SES has developed a comprehensive system. The Brussels effect (or Creeping Standardisation) is the process of unilateral regulatory globalisation caused by the European Union de facto (but not necessarily de jure) externalising its laws outside its borders through market mechanisms. Companies adopt the rules as the price of participating in the huge EU market, and then impose them across their global businesses to minimise the cost of running separate compliance regimes. Similarly, the USA sets its standards. Air Traffic Management has been able to embrace both requirements through a process of joint comparison embraced by the FAA and Eurocontrol. This is likely to dictate the host of well-known multinational companies that will jump on-board with the protocols, procedures and systems. The international market for UTM will undoubtedly become a very hot topic in the post-Covid-19 world. For more information on the commercial UAS and UTM markets, contact us at Valour Consultancy.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5433|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/UTM-in-the-Wilds-e1591188990204.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] “I don’t see how he can ever finish, if he doesn’t begin.” Alice thought to herself that unmanned traffic management should be easy, so she checked several countries that are beginning and this is what she found. In the Asia/Pacific region, there is practical experimentation but a willingness to standardise, Russia is ploughing its own furrow and Europe has developed a series of modular trials to have a co-ordinated commercialised traffic management system. The UK has also instituted a similar research group, Catapult Connected Places (CPC). The concept of integrated traffic management and logistics has yet to be addressed for U-space (U-space is that volume of the atmosphere that would normally accommodate urban drones, say, up to 200m above ground level (AGL). The opportunities for Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems is that all the systems so far produced are created by private companies. This implies that the system has to be commercially viable, it has to make some profit. It also requires common standards and communication protocols. Such standards and protocols are gradually emerging from bodies such as ASTM, ANSI, STANAG (NATO Standard) and IEEE. Autonomous shipping faces the same problem. For drones, clearly, passenger ticket tax, which pays the majority of the budget for conventional air traffic management, is not applicable. A simple fee for every flight, while obvious, has the knock-on effect that to make more money, more flights are needed, and the situation becomes another clogged system and the incentive to improve the system is diminished. An annual subscription or fee per miles flown or some combination of them all might be desirable. On the plus side, UTM systems lend themselves to automation so that there needs to be few humans employed. An ideal system might be an AI controlled system with integrated machine learning that allows only drones that can log on and have a credit account associated with them, and thus pay their fee, to take off. However, in the hands of a private company, such a system is open to abuse (as is one controlled by any government but that is a separate issue). Many of the differences between conventional Air Traffic Management (ATM) and U-space have to do with scale. Drone traffic will be far denser than passenger jet traffic. Drone information services need to be significantly more detailed, diverse and dynamic than those used by aircraft today. Safety critical information will be needed at a much higher fidelity and speed than today’s ATM, and will include geospatial information services to ensure surface clearance, local weather information to calculate drone trajectory uncertainties and non-conventional navigation sources (such as signals of opportunity and vision-based navigation) to allow for more precise navigation on a local scale. Some of this can be delegated to on-board AI. Services of this level of fidelity require the movement and provision of massive amounts of data to a wide array of users spread out over a large geographical area and, perhaps await complete 5G coverage. In Shenzhen, China, the home of DJI, since December 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) controllers and city police in are currently managing over 2,000 drone flights a day following the introduction of a city-wide UTM system called Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management Information Service System of CAAC (UTMISS). This system covers low altitude in segregated airspaces below 120m above ground level (AGL). The airspace is divided in a grid manner. UTMISS provides civil UAS with air traffic management functions for the local civil aviation authority. UTMISS adopts a distributed hybrid cloud infrastructure for safety and security purposes, and data process capability, also allowing expandability. In Korea, PRODRONE has a commercialised UTM system collaborating with LG U+, a South Korean cellular carrier capitalising on its 99.5 per cent 4G coverage. The 5G penetration of 9.67 per cent, represents the highest penetration rate in the world and this is expected to cover the entire country by 2028. The “U+ Smart Drone UTM System,” enables a drone to fly safely for disaster monitoring and logistic transport in BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). They have demonstrated an autonomous drone taking off in a remote location, carrying out duties and returning to a control centre on its own. The system confirms the drone’s position and elevation through the UTM system in BVLOS. Drone operators in a control room can control drones everywhere over land in the country, wherever the network is connected. It makes possible multi-person monitoring and creating a flight plan for multiple drones, useful in many applications. In Japan, which has a long history of drone deployment for agriculture, a UTM system allowing many drone operators to share data, such as critical flight variables was tested in October 2019. The system, developed by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) and others, trialled 100 flights per square kilometre for an hour and were completed at the Fukushima Robot Test Field, about 20km north of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The drones had flight control devices fitted to report their position and speed to the UTM system. Security of the network was achieved with firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS). Authentication keys were allotted to drone operators permitting only approved operators to connect. Flight plan management and flight conditions assumed multiple simultaneous drone-use scenarios such as multiple drone weather observation, and multi-drone formation flights for delivery. Amongst others, Sky Perfect conducted flight tests in BVLOS mode as in disaster damaged areas where, perhaps, ground communication is not available. Position and flight condition data from the drones and control via communication satellites from the direct flight control function in real time was achieved. Hitachi with the Japan Information and Communications Research Institute developed a location sharing device with multi-hop communications that enables long-distance BVLOS flight of multiple drones. It was demonstrated that systems equipped with collision-avoidance technologies can interconnect with the drone traffic management system. The aim was to integrate the UAS traffic management system with collision avoidance technology. JAXA developed a UTM simulator and connected a part of the simulator to the drone traffic management system verifying deconfliction of drone traffic to avoid mid-air collisions. Russia has opted for fitting drones with transponders and the use of low-level radar. Digital radio systems (CRTS) and the Aviation Institute for Navigation Instrumentation (Navigator) have developed a system of avionics and digital ground-based equipment for radar detection of light aircraft and drones for the management and monitoring of air traffic at lower level airspace. The systems comprise small-scale air surveillance system, airborne small-sized transmission system, aircraft responder, ground proximity warning system, airborne collision warning system, navigation and landing systems and ground stations. It allows the creation of objective situational awareness for air traffic using the principle of everyone-sees-everyone. It is difficult to see how such a system without a high degree of automation might cope with extensive commercial drone use. In the USA, a UAS Traffic Management Pilot was initiated as a research project by NASA, and then between the FAA and NASA. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System is intended to be distinct, but complementary to, the traditional FAA’s air traffic management system. The September 2019 pilot project was to develop and demonstrate a traffic management system to safely integrate drone flights within the nation’s airspace system, also creating a shared information network and gathering data. Using mature commercial technologies for UTM including flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services for these drones operating under 400 feet AGL, there will be a cooperative interaction between drone operators and the FAA to determine and communicate real-time airspace status. The FAA will provide real-time constraints to the UAS operators, who are responsible for managing their operations safely within these constraints without receiving positive air traffic control services from the FAA. The primary means of communication and coordination between the FAA, drone operators, and other stakeholders is through a distributed network of highly automated systems via application programming interfaces (API), and not between pilots and air traffic controllers via voice. The FAA UAS Data Exchange umbrella supports multiple partnerships, the first of which is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). Essentially the paperwork has been automated and the traffic management has been delegated to approved UTM vendors such as Aeronyde, AirMap, Airspacelink, AiRXOS, Altitude Angel, Kittyhawk, Skyward, Thales Group and UASidekick. Many of these countries attended the third meeting of the Asia/Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force in Bangkok, in March 2019. These countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong China, Macao China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, USA and Viet Nam, were trying to achieve a common consensus on standards and legislation. India, China and Mongolia all reported on their UTM systems and security. In Europe (not including UK which is conducting its own parallel projects), under the auspices of the Single European Sky (SES), there has been a co-ordinated series of projects to investigate building a roadmap for the safe integration of drones into all classes of airspace. This outlined the steps needed to ensure a coordinated implementation enabling RPAS to fly alongside commercial aircraft. Beginning 2017, a set of exploratory research projects was undertaken to address everything from the concept of operations for drones, critical communications, surveillance and tracking, and information management to aircraft systems, ground-based technologies, cyber-resilience and geo-fencing. In 2018, practical demonstration projects to showcase U-space services managing a broad range of drone operations and related applications, and their interaction with manned aviation was launched. Those ranged from parcel deliveries between two dense urban locations, medical emergencies and police interventions, as well as air taxi trials in an airport-controlled airspace. Leisure use was also catered for, with projects demonstrating how private drone operators can benefit from U-space services. The operations also aimed to demonstrate different levels of automation that are possible, as well as seamless information exchange between multiple service providers in the same geographical area at the same time. In total 186 flight missions for 19 projects were made involving 19 countries. Together, they represent comprehensive preparatory work for commercial drone activities. Stage 1 - Registration, Registration assistance, e-identification, Geo-awareness, Drone aeronautical information management. Stage 2 - Tracking (Position report submission), Surveillance data exchange, Geo-fence provision (includes dynamic geo-fencing). Operation plan preparation /optimisation, Operation plan processing, Risk analysis assistance, Strategic Conflict Resolution, Emergency Management, Incident/ Accident reporting, Citizen reporting service, Monitoring, Traffic information, Navigation infrastructure monitoring, Communication infrastructure monitoring, Legal recording, Digital logbook, Weather information, Procedural interface with ATC. Stage 3 - Dynamic Capacity Management, Tactical Conflict Resolution, Geospatial information service, Population density map, Electromagnetic interference information, Navigation coverage information, Communication coverage information, and Collaborative interface with ATC. Stage 4 - Integrated interfaces with manned aviation, Additional new services such as logistical optimisation and commercialisation. Table showing UTM Trials There a multitude of various countries, bodies and companies trialling different UTM technologies. As in all things, several leaders will emerge and gradually coalesce into a common standard. NASA is moving things clearly in the US and in Europe, the SES has developed a comprehensive system. The Brussels effect (or Creeping Standardisation) is the process of unilateral regulatory globalisation caused by the European Union de facto (but not necessarily de jure) externalising its laws outside its borders through market mechanisms. Companies adopt the rules as the price of participating in the huge EU market, and then impose them across their global businesses to minimise the cost of running separate compliance regimes. Similarly, the USA sets its standards. Air Traffic Management has been able to embrace both requirements through a process of joint comparison embraced by the FAA and Eurocontrol. This is likely to dictate the host of well-known multinational companies that will jump on-board with the protocols, procedures and systems. The international market for UTM will undoubtedly become a very hot topic in the post-Covid-19 world. For more information on the commercial UAS and UTM markets, contact us at Valour Consultancy. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Importance of Low Latency in Business Aviation Connectivity

In previous blogs and in several of our reports, we’ve covered the “three C’s of in-flight connectivity” (which should really be four when you consider the costs involved). Latency is another important, but often overlooked, part of the connectivity experience and is defined as the total time it takes a data packet to travel from one node to another. It is sometimes argued that latency has little bearing on most passenger-facing connectivity applications, and this may well be true in commercial aviation (although high latency can cause page load times to be slow when take rates are high). However, the way connectivity is used, and the expectations that accompany this use, are completely different in business aviation. Business travellers are much more inclined to use video conferencing software, have VoIP conversations and connect to a VPN. For each of these applications, latency is of paramount importance. Online in-flight gaming is another emerging application that can require a very low latency system. The rollout of 5G networks, which exhibit latency of between 20 and 30 milliseconds, will increase pressure on vendors to shorten the cycle time between the on-ground experience and expectations in the air.

According to NetForecast, an independent provider of broadband performance solutions, the average roundtrip packet time from a PED to an online service using a landline connection is 25 milliseconds. In-flight, however, across all currently deployed technologies, it is in the region of 790 milliseconds. Furthermore, the company estimates that packet loss, which is the number of packets that don’t make it to their destination and need to be re-sent, is around 0.05 per cent using a landline connection, but as high as 13 per cent on in-flight connections. Latency and packet loss at this level can, therefore, cause problems with web pages loading, especially if you have multiple users requesting data at the same time, creating a bottleneck that is independent of bandwidth.

While there are technological strategies to mitigate against the impact of latency on services, the only real way to minimise it is to reduce the distance between the origin of a data packet and its destination. For this reason, satellites in orbit at a higher altitude have a higher degree of latency than those in a lower orbit. The same is true of ATG communications. Because cell towers on the ground are closer to the aircraft flying above, latency is inherently lower than with any kind of satellite system. Another important consideration is the design of the connectivity system itself. Those that allocate the majority of their bandwidth in the forward link can expect to see a higher level of roundtrip latency than a symmetrical design where bandwidth is equally distributed between the forward and return link.

When it comes to satellite networks, it is also important to consider the impact of the ground network on latency. Tests of new LEO satellites have shown incredibly low latencies, but one should note that these are not necessarily representative of real-world conditions. OneWeb, for example, achieved average single trip latency of 32 milliseconds during testing in July 2019 and Telesat achieved 18 milliseconds round-trip latency in a February 2020 test. In both instances, there was no “true” ground network to speak of where a packet of data would travel from an aircraft to a satellite, to a ground station and an Internet breakout point (and back). Rather, these tests measured the physical round-trip time from terminal to ground (via satellite) but not out to the Internet via the ground network.

As most LEO networks are still in their infancy, their exists little data to show what average measured round-trip latency might look like on a business aircraft. We do know that whilst Iridium expects round-trip latency for its Certus solution to be in the region of 30 – 50 milliseconds in future, the network was actually pinging at about 500 milliseconds as of February 2019. Similarly, our understanding of OneWeb’s proposed architecture, had it been built out, is that round-trip latency could have been as low as 40 milliseconds or as high as 200 milliseconds, depending where in the world the aircraft happened to be and where traffic terminated on the ground. Along these lines, Telesat’s marketing material for its upcoming LEO constellation indicates that although round-trip latency for the space segment is expected to be less than 50 milliseconds, taking account of both the space and ground segments increases this to less than 100 milliseconds.

Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently provided information on why it doesn’t think SpaceX and can call itself low latency for purpose of getting funding under the bulk of the $16 billion rural broadband initiative. The proposal, released this week, is scheduled for a vote by the five-member commission at its 9th June meeting and suggests that – as intimated above – “the distance between Earth and satellites is not the only factor determining latency” and that “in the absence of a real world example of a non-geostationary orbit satellite network offering mass market fixed service to residential consumers that is able to meet our 100 millisecond round trip latency requirements, Commission staff could not conclude that such an applicant is reasonably capable of meeting our low latency requirements, and so we foreclose such applications”. SpaceX claims round-trip latency of its Starlink network will be less than 50 milliseconds.

MEO satellite networks are also in their infancy as far as their use in providing connectivity to business jets goes. SES, which does not yet use its O3b constellation for airborne connectivity, claims that general end-to-end round-trip latency is in the region of 140 milliseconds for data services. Likewise, we do not yet have an accurate read on what average round-trip latency will look like on a business jet connected to a next-gen ATG network such as those being developed by Gogo and SmartSky Networks. The latter, which will launch its network in 2020, one year ahead of Gogo’s new 5G ATG network, claims users will see round-trip latency below 100 milliseconds. Indeed, during various demo flights, the company has indicated that the latency when playing online multiplayer game, Fortnite, typically ranged between 70 and 90 milliseconds.

For these reasons, the table below shows only average measured round trip latencies for the two types of aircraft network commonly deployed today: legacy ATG and the GEO networks that have been the staple of satellite-based IFC for some time. For comparison, the table also shows what typical round trip latency looks like for familiar terrestrial networks such as home Internet and ground-based LTE.

Table 1: Comparison of Round-Trip Latency Associated with Different Networks

Source: www.experiencetest.net

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5405|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/bizjet-e1590096147998.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] In previous blogs and in several of our reports, we’ve covered the “three C’s of in-flight connectivity” (which should really be four when you consider the costs involved). Latency is another important, but often overlooked, part of the connectivity experience and is defined as the total time it takes a data packet to travel from one node to another. It is sometimes argued that latency has little bearing on most passenger-facing connectivity applications, and this may well be true in commercial aviation (although high latency can cause page load times to be slow when take rates are high). However, the way connectivity is used, and the expectations that accompany this use, are completely different in business aviation. Business travellers are much more inclined to use video conferencing software, have VoIP conversations and connect to a VPN. For each of these applications, latency is of paramount importance. Online in-flight gaming is another emerging application that can require a very low latency system. The rollout of 5G networks, which exhibit latency of between 20 and 30 milliseconds, will increase pressure on vendors to shorten the cycle time between the on-ground experience and expectations in the air. According to NetForecast, an independent provider of broadband performance solutions, the average roundtrip packet time from a PED to an online service using a landline connection is 25 milliseconds. In-flight, however, across all currently deployed technologies, it is in the region of 790 milliseconds. Furthermore, the company estimates that packet loss, which is the number of packets that don’t make it to their destination and need to be re-sent, is around 0.05 per cent using a landline connection, but as high as 13 per cent on in-flight connections. Latency and packet loss at this level can, therefore, cause problems with web pages loading, especially if you have multiple users requesting data at the same time, creating a bottleneck that is independent of bandwidth. While there are technological strategies to mitigate against the impact of latency on services, the only real way to minimise it is to reduce the distance between the origin of a data packet and its destination. For this reason, satellites in orbit at a higher altitude have a higher degree of latency than those in a lower orbit. The same is true of ATG communications. Because cell towers on the ground are closer to the aircraft flying above, latency is inherently lower than with any kind of satellite system. Another important consideration is the design of the connectivity system itself. Those that allocate the majority of their bandwidth in the forward link can expect to see a higher level of roundtrip latency than a symmetrical design where bandwidth is equally distributed between the forward and return link. When it comes to satellite networks, it is also important to consider the impact of the ground network on latency. Tests of new LEO satellites have shown incredibly low latencies, but one should note that these are not necessarily representative of real-world conditions. OneWeb, for example, achieved average single trip latency of 32 milliseconds during testing in July 2019 and Telesat achieved 18 milliseconds round-trip latency in a February 2020 test. In both instances, there was no “true” ground network to speak of where a packet of data would travel from an aircraft to a satellite, to a ground station and an Internet breakout point (and back). Rather, these tests measured the physical round-trip time from terminal to ground (via satellite) but not out to the Internet via the ground network. As most LEO networks are still in their infancy, their exists little data to show what average measured round-trip latency might look like on a business aircraft. We do know that whilst Iridium expects round-trip latency for its Certus solution to be in the region of 30 – 50 milliseconds in future, the network was actually pinging at about 500 milliseconds as of February 2019. Similarly, our understanding of OneWeb’s proposed architecture, had it been built out, is that round-trip latency could have been as low as 40 milliseconds or as high as 200 milliseconds, depending where in the world the aircraft happened to be and where traffic terminated on the ground. Along these lines, Telesat’s marketing material for its upcoming LEO constellation indicates that although round-trip latency for the space segment is expected to be less than 50 milliseconds, taking account of both the space and ground segments increases this to less than 100 milliseconds. Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently provided information on why it doesn’t think SpaceX and can call itself low latency for purpose of getting funding under the bulk of the $16 billion rural broadband initiative. The proposal, released this week, is scheduled for a vote by the five-member commission at its 9th June meeting and suggests that – as intimated above – “the distance between Earth and satellites is not the only factor determining latency” and that “in the absence of a real world example of a non-geostationary orbit satellite network offering mass market fixed service to residential consumers that is able to meet our 100 millisecond round trip latency requirements, Commission staff could not conclude that such an applicant is reasonably capable of meeting our low latency requirements, and so we foreclose such applications”. SpaceX claims round-trip latency of its Starlink network will be less than 50 milliseconds. MEO satellite networks are also in their infancy as far as their use in providing connectivity to business jets goes. SES, which does not yet use its O3b constellation for airborne connectivity, claims that general end-to-end round-trip latency is in the region of 140 milliseconds for data services. Likewise, we do not yet have an accurate read on what average round-trip latency will look like on a business jet connected to a next-gen ATG network such as those being developed by Gogo and SmartSky Networks. The latter, which will launch its network in 2020, one year ahead of Gogo’s new 5G ATG network, claims users will see round-trip latency below 100 milliseconds. Indeed, during various demo flights, the company has indicated that the latency when playing online multiplayer game, Fortnite, typically ranged between 70 and 90 milliseconds. For these reasons, the table below shows only average measured round trip latencies for the two types of aircraft network commonly deployed today: legacy ATG and the GEO networks that have been the staple of satellite-based IFC for some time. For comparison, the table also shows what typical round trip latency looks like for familiar terrestrial networks such as home Internet and ground-based LTE. Table 1: Comparison of Round-Trip Latency Associated with Different Networks

Source: www.experiencetest.net

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All Change for Pricing and Consumption of Early-Window Content?

As I continue to work on our 2020 update of Valour’s “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) Content” report, a number of interesting themes are emerging in the context of what will drive a recovery and, subsequently, the future growth of this sector. I’ll save most of the findings for the report itself, but I did want to share one point of view linked to early-window content (EWC), typically the darling, and most expensive form, of an airline’s IFE offering, because it is becoming increasingly apparent that the way EWC is priced today looks set to change. Yes, COVID-19 has had some bearing on this, but a bigger factor is the changes being made by some of the “Big Five” studios to the way in which brand new blockbusters are served up to and consumed by the masses.

COVID-19 Encouraging Passengers to Use Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs)

As highlighted in another of our recent blogs which speculates the new normal for the passenger experience (https://valourconsultancy.com/re-imagining-the-passenger-experience-in-a-post-coronavirus-world/), when passengers do return to the skies, the expectation is that there will be a greater attention paid to the immediate surroundings, in particular who and what a passenger comes in contact with during a flight. The cleanliness of any communal surface, of which there are plenty in the cabin, will now be under greater scrutiny, and the seatback IFE screen, easily the most popular (and often only) method of accessing and navigating the abundance of IFE content on a long haul flight, is no exception.

In the context of EWC, a worst-case scenario for content service providers (CSPs) and airlines is the new normal causes eyeballs to shift away from the main screen and onto other sources of entertainment, more specifically PEDs, devaluing this content in the process. With passenger traffic substantially down, and the potential for a segment of those that do fly not wanting to use the seatback system, how long can the high cost of EWC stand up to scrutiny? In my opinion, airlines have a couple of options to increase viewership figures; reassure passengers that the IFE screens are clean and safe to use and/or provide an alternative solution that facilitates access to the onboard entertainment, without the need to physically interact with the seatback screen.

In the case of the former, many airlines have been quick to adopt and publicise deep-cleaning processes aimed at going above and beyond standard cabin cleaning to ease passenger concerns. Etihad Airlines, for example, announced it will provide passengers with anti-bacterial wipes upon boarding that can be used to clean the immediate area around the seat. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has deployed an enhanced fogging and disinfecting process for all customer touchpoints, including seatback IFE screens. Secondly, several airlines were in the process of deploying technology that allows PED’s to be paired with seatback systems and to be used as a controller. One example is Singapore Airline’s which has installed Panasonic’s eX3 system on its A350 aircraft. The IFE platform can be paired with the airline’s popular companion app to enable, amongst other things, control, and navigation of the embedded screen.

Another option worth mentioning here is Wireless In-Flight Entertainment (W-IFE), which has been deployed by more than 140 airlines according to our Q4 2019 W-IFE tracker data. W-IFE allows passengers to stream most of an airline’s content portfolio directly to their own PEDs. However, streaming of prized EWC is prohibited by the “Big Five” Hollywood studios, driven by lingering fears around piracy. But this stance isn’t perhaps as solid as what it once was and there have been some isolated cases where specific deals have been put in place between an individual CSP and one or more studios to stream EWC over W-IFE. An example is Inflight Dublin, which has struck a deal with some studios to show newer titles on its Everhub W-IFE platform.

Whilst W-IFE adoption has increased significantly in recent years, some may argue that adoption could be more widespread had it not been for the traditional stance of the “Big Five” studios around EWC. But, in what could be a well-timed change of heart for all involved, the deadlock on this issue could be about to break.

Decision Making by Hollywood Studios

In March 2020, Universal Pictures announced it would alter its release strategy for ‘Trolls World Tour’ during the COVID-19 crisis, foregoing a theatrical release and allowing consumers to stream the film direct to home via digital rental. Disney and Warner Bros. have since followed Universal’s lead, announcing they would release ‘Artemis Fowl’ and ‘Scoob!’ to the home streaming market and bypass a cinema release whilst coronavirus social distancing measures were still in place. Universal’s decision led to Trolls World Tour generating over $100 million USD in the first three weeks of its home release. But, most importantly in the context of this blog, foregoing a theatrical release also reduces the “exclusive” nature of this content.

This scenario brings two considerations into play, firstly, studios could now be less protective of EWC and therefore more inclined to permit streaming onto PEDs. Afterall, the exclusivity factor was one of the key reasons to keep this type of content tied to IFE seatback screens. Secondly, we could be about to see a significant reduction in the cost of EWC, driven by airlines being less willing to pay for titles that are already available for consumers to watch at home.

Looking ahead it is unlikely Hollywood will send all titles direct to home but could certainly do so for those films not expected to break box office records. There are potential cost savings attached to these titles that would certainly be welcomed by airlines and CSP’s alike in the current situation. With that comes the prospect of a positive headline in an otherwise gloomy time for the industry.

To find out more about Valour’s IFE Content predictions, including 10 year forecasts out to 2029, please email: william.calvert@valourconsultancy.com to discuss the ‘Future of IFE Content – 2020’ report.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_text] As I continue to work on our 2020 update of Valour’s “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) Content” report, a number of interesting themes are emerging in the context of what will drive a recovery and, subsequently, the future growth of this sector. I’ll save most of the findings for the report itself, but I did want to share one point of view linked to early-window content (EWC), typically the darling, and most expensive form, of an airline’s IFE offering, because it is becoming increasingly apparent that the way EWC is priced today looks set to change. Yes, COVID-19 has had some bearing on this, but a bigger factor is the changes being made by some of the “Big Five” studios to the way in which brand new blockbusters are served up to and consumed by the masses.

COVID-19 Encouraging Passengers to Use Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs)

As highlighted in another of our recent blogs which speculates the new normal for the passenger experience (https://valourconsultancy.com/re-imagining-the-passenger-experience-in-a-post-coronavirus-world/), when passengers do return to the skies, the expectation is that there will be a greater attention paid to the immediate surroundings, in particular who and what a passenger comes in contact with during a flight. The cleanliness of any communal surface, of which there are plenty in the cabin, will now be under greater scrutiny, and the seatback IFE screen, easily the most popular (and often only) method of accessing and navigating the abundance of IFE content on a long haul flight, is no exception. In the context of EWC, a worst-case scenario for content service providers (CSPs) and airlines is the new normal causes eyeballs to shift away from the main screen and onto other sources of entertainment, more specifically PEDs, devaluing this content in the process. With passenger traffic substantially down, and the potential for a segment of those that do fly not wanting to use the seatback system, how long can the high cost of EWC stand up to scrutiny? In my opinion, airlines have a couple of options to increase viewership figures; reassure passengers that the IFE screens are clean and safe to use and/or provide an alternative solution that facilitates access to the onboard entertainment, without the need to physically interact with the seatback screen. In the case of the former, many airlines have been quick to adopt and publicise deep-cleaning processes aimed at going above and beyond standard cabin cleaning to ease passenger concerns. Etihad Airlines, for example, announced it will provide passengers with anti-bacterial wipes upon boarding that can be used to clean the immediate area around the seat. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has deployed an enhanced fogging and disinfecting process for all customer touchpoints, including seatback IFE screens. Secondly, several airlines were in the process of deploying technology that allows PED’s to be paired with seatback systems and to be used as a controller. One example is Singapore Airline’s which has installed Panasonic’s eX3 system on its A350 aircraft. The IFE platform can be paired with the airline’s popular companion app to enable, amongst other things, control, and navigation of the embedded screen. Another option worth mentioning here is Wireless In-Flight Entertainment (W-IFE), which has been deployed by more than 140 airlines according to our Q4 2019 W-IFE tracker data. W-IFE allows passengers to stream most of an airline’s content portfolio directly to their own PEDs. However, streaming of prized EWC is prohibited by the “Big Five” Hollywood studios, driven by lingering fears around piracy. But this stance isn’t perhaps as solid as what it once was and there have been some isolated cases where specific deals have been put in place between an individual CSP and one or more studios to stream EWC over W-IFE. An example is Inflight Dublin, which has struck a deal with some studios to show newer titles on its Everhub W-IFE platform. Whilst W-IFE adoption has increased significantly in recent years, some may argue that adoption could be more widespread had it not been for the traditional stance of the “Big Five” studios around EWC. But, in what could be a well-timed change of heart for all involved, the deadlock on this issue could be about to break.

Decision Making by Hollywood Studios

In March 2020, Universal Pictures announced it would alter its release strategy for ‘Trolls World Tour’ during the COVID-19 crisis, foregoing a theatrical release and allowing consumers to stream the film direct to home via digital rental. Disney and Warner Bros. have since followed Universal’s lead, announcing they would release ‘Artemis Fowl’ and ‘Scoob!’ to the home streaming market and bypass a cinema release whilst coronavirus social distancing measures were still in place. Universal’s decision led to Trolls World Tour generating over $100 million USD in the first three weeks of its home release. But, most importantly in the context of this blog, foregoing a theatrical release also reduces the “exclusive” nature of this content.
This scenario brings two considerations into play, firstly, studios could now be less protective of EWC and therefore more inclined to permit streaming onto PEDs. Afterall, the exclusivity factor was one of the key reasons to keep this type of content tied to IFE seatback screens. Secondly, we could be about to see a significant reduction in the cost of EWC, driven by airlines being less willing to pay for titles that are already available for consumers to watch at home. Looking ahead it is unlikely Hollywood will send all titles direct to home but could certainly do so for those films not expected to break box office records. There are potential cost savings attached to these titles that would certainly be welcomed by airlines and CSP’s alike in the current situation. With that comes the prospect of a positive headline in an otherwise gloomy time for the industry. To find out more about Valour’s IFE Content predictions, including 10 year forecasts out to 2029, please email: william.calvert@valourconsultancy.com to discuss the ‘Future of IFE Content – 2020’ report. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

OneWeb Bankruptcy Only Intensifies Battle for ESA Supremacy

On March 27th 2020, London-based satellite firm, OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and in doing so surprised some and merely confirmed what others had seen coming for some time. Much has been written, both pre- and post-bankruptcy, around the challenges associated with making the LEO business model work and, more specifically what was wrong with OneWeb’s approach. This post won’t be adding to that commentary. I’ve instead opted to focus on the potential impact to those involved in the production of the next generation of antennas, which rely heavily on LEO constellations succeeding.

Right now, there is a race (perhaps better labelled a marathon at this point) been run amongst a sizeable number of hardware manufacturers to build a new generation of fully electronically steerable antennas (ESA’s), primarily to bring the best out of NGSO satellite constellations. I respectfully refer to this as a marathon rather than a sprint because developing such a solution has proven costly and complex, and despite years of rhetoric, an ESA which hits all the right notes remains elusive. Having been fortunate enough to meet with a number of the vendors currently developing ESA’s, there can be no doubt the industry is as close as it has ever been to bringing a commercially ready product to market. But there is also still some way to go, and for most, continued development (and ultimately getting a product to market) depends on further investment and agreements, primarily with NGSO operators like OneWeb.

The significance of OneWeb in the context of this story lies mostly in the fact it had progressed as far as actually sending some satellites into orbit. Whilst those in the know will likely shake their heads reading this, OneWeb’s LEO constellation was perceived by many as one of the few that would eventually go on to succeed; perhaps symbolic of how much uncertainty and confusion there is linked to LEO. This “front runner” status and broad target market made OneWeb an attractive target for any ESA manufacturer looking to raise its profile through association. Notable examples include Istropic Systems, which in 2018 announced it was to develop an ultra-low-cost consumer broadband terminal for OneWeb primed for various end-user applications, and US-based Wafer, a company self-funded by OneWeb founder, Greg Wyler, which was reported to be working toward delivering a low-cost ESA for the LEO network this year.

The need to remain relevant in the seemingly inevitable era of LEO isn’t reserved solely for ESA vendors. In March 2020, Intellian and Cobham signed contracts to manufacture “more traditional” parabolic user terminals destined for OneWeb’s prospective enterprise, cellular backhaul, maritime and government clients. OneWeb’s bankruptcy will no doubt have repercussions here too but Intellian and Cobham are arguably better placed to cushion the blow by being able to fall back on existing GEO business segments, most notably maritime connectivity where the two have a combined 70 per cent share of active installed VSAT terminals.

Furthermore, despite what some may say, the current cost and fundamental physics associated with ESA’s dictates that the business case for them falls apart without NGSO constellations. This isn’t to say collaboration between ESA manufacturers and GEO operators is to be disregarded. Inmarsat, Intelsat and Viasat are just three GEO incumbents known to active in the ESA segment today. The former is understood to be keeping a close eye on ESA developments as part of continued enhancements to its GX network, which will include two new payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) from 2022. High up on that list is a collaboration between Safran and Jet-Talk (a joint venture between ST Electronics and Satixfy) which are forging ahead with development of an ARINC 792 compliant ESA that could become the first ESA antenna certified for GX. Intelsat, meanwhile, has brought Kymeta on as a preferred supplier of Communications-on-the-Move (COTM) terminals as part of its FlexMove services.

But the point here is that success will not come by competing with existing antenna technology in the GEO arena alone, especially in fixed terminal market where incumbent technology is more cost effective today. The commercial launch of large-scale LEO constellations that lend themselves to ESA’s are an essential ingredient in the mix. It can be argued that OneWeb’s fall pushes back the already overdue timeframe for a commercially ready LEO constellation becoming active by at least a year or more.

Clearly then, the loss of OneWeb can only be seen as a set-back for those with a stake in the development of ESA’s and the situation is only made worse by the current stance of the other current major player, SpaceX to manufacture terminals in-house. But, as touched upon briefly above, there are positives. In the short term, a small number of solutions will be deployed in GEO mobility applications, specifically the military sector and aviation, where price sensitivity is minimal, reliability is crucial, and discretion is king. There are also other operators still pushing ahead with commitments to build NGSO constellations, most notably; SES with its O3b mPOWER MEO constellation, Amazon (with it Kuiper project), Telesat and China’s proposed Hongyun and Hongyan constellations. There could also yet be a reincarnation of OneWeb that goes on to succeed where v1.0 failed – we’ve seen that before.

But what should become clear is that there is now a greater pressure on ESA manufacturers to build confidence and stand out from the crowd by forging partnerships with GEO, MEO and LEO operators, as well as influential end-users such as government departments. None of which will happen without possessing the technology to back up the rhetoric.

Linked to the above, Isotropic Systems continues to work toward a 2022 launch of its terminal designed for SES’ O3b mPOWER constellation, having been chosen as a preferred supplier, along with ALCAN and Viasat. Similarly, Gilat Satellite Networks and Ball Aerospace are just two of the vendors to carry out ESA demonstrations with Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite. The former performed what is thought to be the first in-flight test of an ESA over a NGSO satellite. Telesat has also doubled down on its intentions to build a LEO constellation of 300 satellites in a March 2020 investor call. Finally, in May 2019 Boeing Phantom Works announced it will deploy its in-house built ESA on new U.S. Navy MQ-25 drones as part of a wider military contract it had won.

In summary, the fall of OneWeb by no means kills off the ESA story. Far from it. But from my point of view, what it does do is both delay the arrival of commercially ready solutions hitting the market and speed up the rate at which manufacturers will drop out of the ESA race. The intensity has been turned up a notch and what we should now see is the cream to rise to the top.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5384|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/international-space-station-1176518_1920-e1588731887331.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] On March 27th 2020, London-based satellite firm, OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and in doing so surprised some and merely confirmed what others had seen coming for some time. Much has been written, both pre- and post-bankruptcy, around the challenges associated with making the LEO business model work and, more specifically what was wrong with OneWeb’s approach. This post won’t be adding to that commentary. I’ve instead opted to focus on the potential impact to those involved in the production of the next generation of antennas, which rely heavily on LEO constellations succeeding. Right now, there is a race (perhaps better labelled a marathon at this point) been run amongst a sizeable number of hardware manufacturers to build a new generation of fully electronically steerable antennas (ESA’s), primarily to bring the best out of NGSO satellite constellations. I respectfully refer to this as a marathon rather than a sprint because developing such a solution has proven costly and complex, and despite years of rhetoric, an ESA which hits all the right notes remains elusive. Having been fortunate enough to meet with a number of the vendors currently developing ESA’s, there can be no doubt the industry is as close as it has ever been to bringing a commercially ready product to market. But there is also still some way to go, and for most, continued development (and ultimately getting a product to market) depends on further investment and agreements, primarily with NGSO operators like OneWeb. The significance of OneWeb in the context of this story lies mostly in the fact it had progressed as far as actually sending some satellites into orbit. Whilst those in the know will likely shake their heads reading this, OneWeb’s LEO constellation was perceived by many as one of the few that would eventually go on to succeed; perhaps symbolic of how much uncertainty and confusion there is linked to LEO. This “front runner” status and broad target market made OneWeb an attractive target for any ESA manufacturer looking to raise its profile through association. Notable examples include Istropic Systems, which in 2018 announced it was to develop an ultra-low-cost consumer broadband terminal for OneWeb primed for various end-user applications, and US-based Wafer, a company self-funded by OneWeb founder, Greg Wyler, which was reported to be working toward delivering a low-cost ESA for the LEO network this year. The need to remain relevant in the seemingly inevitable era of LEO isn’t reserved solely for ESA vendors. In March 2020, Intellian and Cobham signed contracts to manufacture “more traditional” parabolic user terminals destined for OneWeb’s prospective enterprise, cellular backhaul, maritime and government clients. OneWeb’s bankruptcy will no doubt have repercussions here too but Intellian and Cobham are arguably better placed to cushion the blow by being able to fall back on existing GEO business segments, most notably maritime connectivity where the two have a combined 70 per cent share of active installed VSAT terminals. Furthermore, despite what some may say, the current cost and fundamental physics associated with ESA’s dictates that the business case for them falls apart without NGSO constellations. This isn’t to say collaboration between ESA manufacturers and GEO operators is to be disregarded. Inmarsat, Intelsat and Viasat are just three GEO incumbents known to active in the ESA segment today. The former is understood to be keeping a close eye on ESA developments as part of continued enhancements to its GX network, which will include two new payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) from 2022. High up on that list is a collaboration between Safran and Jet-Talk (a joint venture between ST Electronics and Satixfy) which are forging ahead with development of an ARINC 792 compliant ESA that could become the first ESA antenna certified for GX. Intelsat, meanwhile, has brought Kymeta on as a preferred supplier of Communications-on-the-Move (COTM) terminals as part of its FlexMove services. But the point here is that success will not come by competing with existing antenna technology in the GEO arena alone, especially in fixed terminal market where incumbent technology is more cost effective today. The commercial launch of large-scale LEO constellations that lend themselves to ESA’s are an essential ingredient in the mix. It can be argued that OneWeb’s fall pushes back the already overdue timeframe for a commercially ready LEO constellation becoming active by at least a year or more. Clearly then, the loss of OneWeb can only be seen as a set-back for those with a stake in the development of ESA’s and the situation is only made worse by the current stance of the other current major player, SpaceX to manufacture terminals in-house. But, as touched upon briefly above, there are positives. In the short term, a small number of solutions will be deployed in GEO mobility applications, specifically the military sector and aviation, where price sensitivity is minimal, reliability is crucial, and discretion is king. There are also other operators still pushing ahead with commitments to build NGSO constellations, most notably; SES with its O3b mPOWER MEO constellation, Amazon (with it Kuiper project), Telesat and China’s proposed Hongyun and Hongyan constellations. There could also yet be a reincarnation of OneWeb that goes on to succeed where v1.0 failed – we’ve seen that before. But what should become clear is that there is now a greater pressure on ESA manufacturers to build confidence and stand out from the crowd by forging partnerships with GEO, MEO and LEO operators, as well as influential end-users such as government departments. None of which will happen without possessing the technology to back up the rhetoric. Linked to the above, Isotropic Systems continues to work toward a 2022 launch of its terminal designed for SES’ O3b mPOWER constellation, having been chosen as a preferred supplier, along with ALCAN and Viasat. Similarly, Gilat Satellite Networks and Ball Aerospace are just two of the vendors to carry out ESA demonstrations with Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite. The former performed what is thought to be the first in-flight test of an ESA over a NGSO satellite. Telesat has also doubled down on its intentions to build a LEO constellation of 300 satellites in a March 2020 investor call. Finally, in May 2019 Boeing Phantom Works announced it will deploy its in-house built ESA on new U.S. Navy MQ-25 drones as part of a wider military contract it had won. In summary, the fall of OneWeb by no means kills off the ESA story. Far from it. But from my point of view, what it does do is both delay the arrival of commercially ready solutions hitting the market and speed up the rate at which manufacturers will drop out of the ESA race. The intensity has been turned up a notch and what we should now see is the cream to rise to the top. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

For The IFC Vendors Agile Enough To See Out COVID-19, The Need To Be Connected Will Be Greater Than Ever

By William Calvert, Research Analyst, Valour Consultancy

At this point, the assumption is that readers are fully aware of the context surrounding COVID-19, both in terms of cause, spread and implications, globally. Rather than focus on repeating what is already known, let us instead jump straight into reviewing the effects of this pandemic on the In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) competitive environment.

Fall in Active Installed Base

Amongst the early priorities for those in the IFC value chain is how to deal with existing IFC contracts that in almost all cases have become void because of the grounding of connected aircraft. Most, if not all, airlines are unlikely to be in a position to pay even the smallest portion of the contracted IFC fees without planes in the air and with very little room for negotiation this will very quickly hit service providers, especially those that have ongoing fees to pay to capacity owners.

Even assuming the spread of COVID-19 is brought under control in the coming weeks, it is difficult to envisage demand for travel by air returning to any sort of normality in 2020. We’re therefore not talking about a short-term fix here, but instead looking at renewed terms between all parties, perhaps an alternative approach to the longer-term business model and, in some case, vendors collapsing under the financial burden.

Stalled or Reduced Installation Programs

In the medium term, we must consider what the new commercial active fleet will look like. The fact airlines around the world are now the subject of sizeable government bailouts suggests we could see the vast majority survive long enough to see passenger demand return. But events like the 2008 global financial crisis also suggest we should expect to see airlines using the downturn in demand to retire aircraft early and slimming down fleets.

On top of this, the significant cost control measures now in place will almost certainly affect IFC retrofit programs throughout 2020 and will likely lead to delays, or the complete cancellation, of aircraft on order that are also ringfenced to have IFC hardware equipped at the factory.

In summary, what remains of the industry once all of this is over will more than likely be reduced versus the active fleet at the end of 2019. This in turn will impact IFC service providers, several of which have built sizeable backlogs, through delays/reductions to installation programs or potentially cancelling them all together.

Airlines Remain on the Fence

In the longer-term, a combination of prolonged cost cutting and the broader uncertainty that COVID-19 generates within the IFC supply chain could lead to implications for IFC adoption. Both factors represent significant change from the status quo and could justifiably lead airlines that are either in active negotiations around IFC implementation or were considering putting out an RFP, to push back the decision-making process until more certainty returns.

To help stimulate demand, what we could now see is the emergence of increased flexibility, in a number of areas linked to the provision of IFC. This could be an acceleration in the adoption of open industry standards to help keep services switched on if specific vendors do go under or if contract terms become unmanageable. It could also be greater flexibility in the business models agreed between capacity owners, service providers and airlines, with a greater share of ancillary revenue opportunities provided to those at the top of the chain.

The Need to be Connected Going Nowhere

So, is there a silver lining in all of this? I think so, and it comes down to our need to be connected. Sure, the existing business model is far from ideal, but this need to be connected everywhere was enough to encourage airlines of all sizes to activate Wi-Fi services and this demand will still be there when things get back to some level of normality.

There is even a case for self-isolation to be seen as an accelerator of the trend toward increased connectivity. In March 2020 alone:

  • U.S. telco Verizon has reported a 75% increase in gaming traffic in just one week.
  • Online shoppers have increased by 80% year-on-year in Brazil, 45% in Australia, 32% in France and 29% in Italy according to the Financial Times.
  • Disney+ is just one of the OTT suppliers reporting increased subscriber numbers, with U.S. numbers tripling across a two-day period.
  • Teleconferencing app, Zoom added 20 million mobile users in one week, according to Sensor Tower.

Whilst for many, this change in behaviour may only be temporary, some are likely to alter the way they view and partake in online activity forever, both socially and for work. There is every reason to suggest this change in behaviour could lead to increased use of IFC, either as improved take rates or demand for bandwidth. This should be something for the IFC value chain, whatever that looks like by the time demand does eventually return, to remain focussed on and prepare for.

Valour Consultancy will feature a more in-depth forecast for 2020 IFC installations and beyond in its ‘Future of IFC – 2020’ report, which is expected to publish in the coming months. For more information on this upcoming report, or Valour’s IFC Quarterly tracker, please contact us at: info@valourconsultancy.com

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5323|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/person-holding-smartphone-inside-airplane-1647116-scaled-e1586136658649.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_text] By William Calvert, Research Analyst, Valour Consultancy At this point, the assumption is that readers are fully aware of the context surrounding COVID-19, both in terms of cause, spread and implications, globally. Rather than focus on repeating what is already known, let us instead jump straight into reviewing the effects of this pandemic on the In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) competitive environment. Fall in Active Installed Base Amongst the early priorities for those in the IFC value chain is how to deal with existing IFC contracts that in almost all cases have become void because of the grounding of connected aircraft. Most, if not all, airlines are unlikely to be in a position to pay even the smallest portion of the contracted IFC fees without planes in the air and with very little room for negotiation this will very quickly hit service providers, especially those that have ongoing fees to pay to capacity owners. Even assuming the spread of COVID-19 is brought under control in the coming weeks, it is difficult to envisage demand for travel by air returning to any sort of normality in 2020. We’re therefore not talking about a short-term fix here, but instead looking at renewed terms between all parties, perhaps an alternative approach to the longer-term business model and, in some case, vendors collapsing under the financial burden. Stalled or Reduced Installation Programs In the medium term, we must consider what the new commercial active fleet will look like. The fact airlines around the world are now the subject of sizeable government bailouts suggests we could see the vast majority survive long enough to see passenger demand return. But events like the 2008 global financial crisis also suggest we should expect to see airlines using the downturn in demand to retire aircraft early and slimming down fleets. On top of this, the significant cost control measures now in place will almost certainly affect IFC retrofit programs throughout 2020 and will likely lead to delays, or the complete cancellation, of aircraft on order that are also ringfenced to have IFC hardware equipped at the factory. In summary, what remains of the industry once all of this is over will more than likely be reduced versus the active fleet at the end of 2019. This in turn will impact IFC service providers, several of which have built sizeable backlogs, through delays/reductions to installation programs or potentially cancelling them all together. Airlines Remain on the Fence In the longer-term, a combination of prolonged cost cutting and the broader uncertainty that COVID-19 generates within the IFC supply chain could lead to implications for IFC adoption. Both factors represent significant change from the status quo and could justifiably lead airlines that are either in active negotiations around IFC implementation or were considering putting out an RFP, to push back the decision-making process until more certainty returns. To help stimulate demand, what we could now see is the emergence of increased flexibility, in a number of areas linked to the provision of IFC. This could be an acceleration in the adoption of open industry standards to help keep services switched on if specific vendors do go under or if contract terms become unmanageable. It could also be greater flexibility in the business models agreed between capacity owners, service providers and airlines, with a greater share of ancillary revenue opportunities provided to those at the top of the chain. The Need to be Connected Going Nowhere So, is there a silver lining in all of this? I think so, and it comes down to our need to be connected. Sure, the existing business model is far from ideal, but this need to be connected everywhere was enough to encourage airlines of all sizes to activate Wi-Fi services and this demand will still be there when things get back to some level of normality. There is even a case for self-isolation to be seen as an accelerator of the trend toward increased connectivity. In March 2020 alone:
  • U.S. telco Verizon has reported a 75% increase in gaming traffic in just one week.
  • Online shoppers have increased by 80% year-on-year in Brazil, 45% in Australia, 32% in France and 29% in Italy according to the Financial Times.
  • Disney+ is just one of the OTT suppliers reporting increased subscriber numbers, with U.S. numbers tripling across a two-day period.
  • Teleconferencing app, Zoom added 20 million mobile users in one week, according to Sensor Tower.
Whilst for many, this change in behaviour may only be temporary, some are likely to alter the way they view and partake in online activity forever, both socially and for work. There is every reason to suggest this change in behaviour could lead to increased use of IFC, either as improved take rates or demand for bandwidth. This should be something for the IFC value chain, whatever that looks like by the time demand does eventually return, to remain focussed on and prepare for. Valour Consultancy will feature a more in-depth forecast for 2020 IFC installations and beyond in its ‘Future of IFC – 2020’ report, which is expected to publish in the coming months. For more information on this upcoming report, or Valour’s IFC Quarterly tracker, please contact us at: info@valourconsultancy.com [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Re-Imagining the Passenger Experience in a Post Coronavirus World

Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus.

It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology.

While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with.

This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens.

New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with.

Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise.

More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash.

The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board.

One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited?

The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor?

While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed.

Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards.

There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open.

Stay safe and healthy!

Valour Consultancy

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5303|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/12c51ea9ed7611a127aa27f26be64ef1e9390fd9-scaled-e1585144762134.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus. It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology. While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with. This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens. New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with. Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise. More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash. The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board. One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited? The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor? While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed. Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards. There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open. Stay safe and healthy! Valour Consultancy [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]