wifi, bluetooth, aircraft, crew, pilots, wireless

The Real Benefits of Onboard Connectivity

By Flightcell

You’d have to look hard nowadays to find someone who isn’t regularly using WiFi or Bluetooth in everyday life—beyond the confines of a retirement home. Nevertheless, despite their prevalence everywhere else, they are still not yet commonplace for airborne operations.

Now, however, there is the potential to do in the air what is taken for granted everywhere on the ground, and that is always to be connected. We took this to the extreme late last year by proving we could send patient ECG data from the aircraft in flight, to the hospital, making it no longer just the domain of ambulances on terra firma. This potentially lifesaving technology was made possible with WiFi-capable medical monitors, an on-board WiFi hotspot and a cellular data connection (via the Flightcell DZMx).

The marriage of WiFi and cellular technology opens a whole new world of possibilities for airborne first-responders and improves safety. Air ambulances can now use smart devices—typically tablets—to receive waypoint information in-flight, check the weather conditions en-route, send email and check landing zone databases (e.g. www.lzcontrol.com). The smart device will behave exactly as it would on the ground—using a broadband cellular connection to the internet. Law enforcement and military can use operational and navigation software (e.g. www.airbox.com) to avoid wirelines and experience real-time synchronisation with ground units.

You may be thinking “but I can do this with my cell phone”… and to some extent you’d be correct, however a dedicated cellular antenna mounted underneath the aircraft—with a clear view of the cellular network—is far superior to a handheld cell phone. If your comms equipment is also equipped with Bluetooth, you will have the added luxury of being able to connect the audio from your cell phone so you can make and receive calls with your headset or helmet on. The real benefits are enhanced:

  • crew and patient safety
  • operational efficiency
  • patient care
  • communication

Just as ground-bound users are constantly finding new uses for smart devices and Bluetooth and WiFi technology, so too, can aircraft operators by factoring the Flightcell DZMx into their thinking and planning.