When the Airbus Perlan Mission II takes flight later this year it will soar higher than ever. And it will do so with a new in-flight connectivity link on board. The glider, which reached 76,000 feet in 2018, hopes to hit 90,000 feet this time around. And it will stream the flight live using the Thales FlytLink system. The Thales hardware connects via the Iridium Certus network, operating on the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation.
We are delighted to support Airbus Perlan Mission II because we believe the project aligns with Thales’ own strategies for future, greener aviation and the environment.– Marc Duval Destin, Vice-President Strategy, Product Policy and Innovation for Thales’ Flight Avionics
The addition of a connectivity solution on the Perlan 2 glider will allow for live streaming of flight activities to STEM students, researchers and aviation enthusiasts around the world while the aircraft is in flight, enabling access to real-time data downloads.
The Iridium network offers true global connectivity, including over the poles. The FlytLink hardware’s resilience, high dependability and low size, weight and power make it adaptable to any aircraft, including gliders such as Perlan.
“We look forward to Perlan 2 carrying the Thales logo as well as one of the company’s most cutting-edge communication solutions to even greater heights,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. “By exploring the stratosphere in an airborne research vehicle that creates zero pollution, we hope to unlock discoveries never possible before. Through this exciting partnership with Thales, we also look forward to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and pilots in environmentally conscious aviation.”
When Perlan 2 reaches its next record-breaking target altitude of over 90,000 feet, it will be the highest a winged aircraft has ever flown in level flight. Equipped with cutting edge aviation technology and using spacecraft engineering, its glider wings can fly in less than 3% of normal air density at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius approximating the atmospheric conditions on Mars.
“Our equipment will be in an unpressurised environment,” notes Duval Destin. “So, this is a great opportunity for us to validate the design and performance of our solution in such extremely non-benign conditions.”
This same Iridium network is used by AirFi for its LEO connectivity solution. Lufthansa Systems backed away from a similar architecture in early 2019.
It is also the network behind the AS IP connectivity now being trialed by Wizz Air. It is not generally seen as a replacement for full in-flight connectivity on commercial aircraft, but that’s OK. Iridium does not really want that anyways.
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