At NBAA Vegas 2019, in-flight connectivity, going digital, and urban air mobility among hot topics

The business aviation industry continues to embrace the latest technologies to drive innovation


There’s a growing desire for high-quality, high-capacity in-flight connectivity (IFC); more apps and digital tools are in high demand; and urban mobility aircraft are poised to enter the mainstream.

Those were just a few of the takeaways for Viasat at this year’s National Business Aviation Association Conference held Oct. 22-24 in Las Vegas. The NBAA gathering hosts over 1,000 exhibitors, with more than 100 aircraft on display and well over 23,000 industry professionals. Across the show, major business aviation players showcased their latest offerings ranging from interior design, memory seats and smart operational equipment. Major announcements at this year’s conference included Gulfstream’s introduction of their largest business jet yet - the G700 - and Flexjet’s $1.4 billion order for 64 Embraer Phenom 300Es and Praetor 500/600s.

The Viasat team met with reporters, analysts, partners, aircraft manufacturers, customers, and other business aviation pros throughout the week.

“Being able to engage in face-to-face conversations allows us to hear from different professionals in the industry about what is top-of-mind,” said Claudio D’Amico, business area director for Business Aviation at Viasat. “The common denominator across the various chats was connectivity. Being able to deliver high-quality and reliable IFC for customer, crew, and operational purposes allows Viasat to work with many different partners, customers, and fleet operators to meet their needs.”

From the numerous discussions that took place, there were several trends that seemed to be top-of-mind for attendees:

In-flight connectivity is heating up

While cruising at 40,000 feet, people expect connectivity. The market is responding to this demand with new players entering the connectivity space. And while IFC offerings are growing, it’s important to understand what makes up a good in-flight connection.

Capacity, reliability, speed, and coverage area are the top elements that contribute to a quality in-flight connection. Viasat delivers incredible capacity through its IFC solutions including its Ka-band and Dual Band services, enabling all passengers and crew to simultaneously connect without impacting internet performance. Additionally, the newly introduced Viasat Ku-Advanced plans more than double the speeds for many existing customers around the globe.

The key takeaway from our conversations is that not all IFC technology is able to meet the continually shifting demands of business jet owners. As an example, Viasat’s compact Ka-band shipset is the only high-capacity, high-speed offering today on super mid-cabin aircraft including the Gulfstream G280 and the new Embraer Praetor 500 and Praetor 600.

Going digital

Across the industry, there’s a big demand for apps and digital tools. From the connected cockpit to the maintenance hangar, professionals across the industry are talking about the need for digital solutions to help with data processing, meet passenger needs and improve efficiency.

As new aircrafts and concept aircraft are introduced, digital technology is as much a part of them as landing gear. Expectations continue to grow as private jet owners look to adopt the latest in-flight digital entertainment, navigation and aircraft safety solutions. But while digital tools and apps are fun and exciting, much like your smartphone, these innovative apps and tools can’t deliver without connectivity.

Urban mobility

This is a trend that continues to grow. Beyond transportation for passengers, companies are exploring options of how to use urban mobility in healthcare (quick transportation for donated organs), freight, as well as search & rescue. Reliable and always-on connectivity are among the critical elements required to make these concepts a reality.

When both manned and unmanned aircraft become the norm and are zooming all around us, safety and IFC go hand-in-hand. While strong and reliable connectivity will allow unmanned aircraft to safely operate, navigate efficiently to their destination, and remain always online in case of an emergency, IFC will enable passengers to remain connected while in transit.

Satellite connectivity offers a way to ensure urban mobility aircraft remain online even when other connectivity technologies are unable to reach them.

Overall, the primary driver behind many of the new technologies being rolled out and discussed in the aviation industry is the ability to connect it all. Viasat is at the center of that conversation with IFC technology that we’re continually working to improve and make available to a variety of different types of aircraft.

James Person is director of Business Development and Strategy for Viasat’s Business Aviation division