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ViaSat Demonstrates Helicopter Sat Internet
3/8/2013

Last week I reported ViaSat Antenna Receives FAA and International Certification, saying that the VR-12 Ka-band satellite antenna system had been tested to demonstrate its ability to handle aircraft-to-satellite transmission rates “upwards of 10 Mbps.” I suggested that the antenna may find use on news helicopters.

Tuesday ViaSat announced it had demonstrated High-Throughput Ka-band Satellite Communications on H-3 Helicopter. While the data rate of 4 Mbps was not as high as that from a fixed wing aircraft, even that rate is pretty amazing considering the antenna was repeatedly blocked by the helicopter’s rotor blades as they passed between the antenna and satellite.

The flight test was done at Patuxent River, Md. and involved a Sikorsky H-3 helicopter and the ViaSat VR-12 Ka-band antenna.

ViaSat stated: “Flight conditions encompassed rigorous maneuvers, including severe banking and operation through several rotor orientations while running data-intensive applications. During multiple tests, operators were able to simultaneously run five VoIP calls, three VTCs from air to ground, and streaming videos from the Internet to the aircraft. All applications ran without packet loss or video dropout.”

“We are enabling new operational concepts for military and civil helicopter missions,” said Paul Baca, vice president and general manager of ViaSat Global Mobile Broadband. “Rotary wing customers can experience broadband that overcomes the challenges of vibration, shock, and signal interference associated with satellite communication for helicopters.”

Now that ViaSat has demonstrated the VR-12 Ka-band system can work on a helicopter, I'll be watching to see which TV station or network is the first to claim “Helicopter video direct via satellite” from a location outside their conventional ENG coverage area.
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