NXT Communications (NXTCOMM), a mobile connectivity company based in Atlanta, has completed the design of a low-cost satellite antenna for the commercial and defense aviation markets.
NXTCOMM says the high capacity, flat panel antenna, called AeroMax, provides greater performance at significantly lower price, achieved by using standard PCB manufacturing with commercial off-the-shelf components, including a highly integrated silicon chipset. The AeroMax design is based on a modular subarray topology scalable to any form factor. It will be the building block for a portfolio of low-cost commercial satellite antennas. The antenna aperture used for the design is field and flight tested, deployed in defense aviation and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications, according to NXTCOMM.
“Our design represents a real breakthrough opportunity to bring proven, low-cost, high performance flat panel satellite antennas to the commercial aviation marketplace,” said Carl Novello, the company’s chief technology officer. “The AeroMax antenna features no moving parts, is electronically steerable and delivers significantly enhanced performance in both Ku and Ka frequency bands.”
NXTCOMM plans over-the-air testing later this year and low-rate initial production in early 2021.
Dave Horton, NXTCOMM co-founder and CEO and a 20-year aviation and satcom veteran, said, “AeroMax fills a critical broadband need facing airlines and operators as they resume flights in a changed connectivity environment.”
The COVID-19 aviation shutdown has hit the inflight connectivity (IFC) service sector hard. Quilty Analytics’ estimates the global 2020 IFC service provider revenue impact will be $400 million to $500 million. Nonetheless, some analysts are predicting a jump in demand for inflight connectivity as air travel resumes this summer, especially among business travelers.
NXTCOMM sees the AeroMax as an attractive antenna alternative for cash-strapped airlines that need connectivity for passengers and are seeking new revenue opportunities.
Longer term, the $130 billion aviation equipment and services market remains significant, with more than 39,000 commercial jets forecast to be produced over the next 20 years, according to Boeing and Airbus. They estimate an in-service fleet of more than 18,000 commercial transport aircraft at 900 airlines and more than 7,500 business jets.
NXTCOMM was formed in 2017 by Horton and Tim Morton, who serves as president. Previously, Morton led the development of classified satellite technologies and has overseen several venture-backed communications, software and digital media organizations.
“We intend to transform inflight passenger experience forever by providing a transformational in-flight connectivity solution that sets a new standard for both user satisfaction and ROI for airlines,” said Morton.
According to the founders, they have assembled a highly skilled team of hardware and software industry veterans from the aviation and satellite world. The company’s capabilities include a full-scale production facility in metro Atlanta and FAA Part 145 certification facilities in Georgia.