Cabin Connectivity | Satcom Direct

Satcom Direct, Connecting Corporate Aviation For 25 Years

Twenty-five years ago engineer Jim Jensen started Satcom Direct from a beach house on the Florida coast, with just six colleagues. His mission: to transparently connect business aircraft in flight, to the ground. He had spotted a growing gap in aviation communications noting that existing systems enabling phone calls between jets and callers necessitated multiple companies, generating numerous bills, from locations all around the world, and even then connection to the right person wasn’t guaranteed. The system was untenable.  
Twenty-five years ago engineer Jim Jensen started Satcom Direct from a beach house on the Florida coast, with just six colleagues. His mission: to transparently connect business aircraft in flight, to the ground. He had spotted a growing gap in aviation communications noting that existing systems enabling phone calls between jets and callers necessitated multiple companies, generating numerous bills, from locations all around the world, and even then connection to the right person wasn’t guaranteed. The system was untenable.  

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MAGAZINE

Mars| April 2022

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CABIN CONNECTIVITY GUIDE

Jensen, now Satcom Direct company Chairman and CEO, working with 400 colleagues across 16 offices worldwide, set out to rationalise the situation. “The existing set-up relied on technology developed for marine shipping travelling around 18knots and was trying to repurpose it for aircraft flying at more than 500mph. The tech could not keep up, literally.”

Jensen launched Satcom Direct Global One Number. GON – which is still operational today – enabled direct dialling to an assigned aircraft number no matter where it was. Compared with today’s multiple options GON seems a relatively simple ask, but without Jensen’s vision, much of what is deemed normal in the contemporary sphere of business aviation connectivity would not exist. The system revolutionised inflight communications and formed solid foundations for Satcom Direct’s growth.

SD has been responsible for leading the way ever since and boasts a plethora of innovative firsts. FlightDeck Freedom was the first, and still is, the only datalink product that integrates flight deck and cabin communications; SD’s GlobalVT service was the first to enable use of personal smartphone numbers for voice and SMS at any altitude; aeroIT was the industry’s first accredited IT certification for aviation IT professionals; SD was also the first to highlight the critical importance of proactive aviation cybersecurity.

Technology sits at the heart of all it does with the Satcom Direct Router, SDR® family underpinning much of the activity. This magical black box was integral in transforming SD from a communications provider to a connectivity business. The 1000th SDR has just been produced commemorating another milestone for the business.

Acquisition has also strengthened the company. The purchase of the Airbus US Government business COMSAT added two satellite ground stations to the offering, which are now supplemented by multiple Points-of-Presence internationally; Aircraft Logs immediately added internet-based scheduling and tax reporting tools; and the TrueNorth Avionics purchase evolved the company from service provider to hardware manufacturer. Further investment saw expansion of the SD Data Centre, which in conjunction with the hardware, software and ground stations, enhances customer cybersecurity.

The latest addition to the portfolio is the series of SD Plane Simple™ Antenna Systems. Traditionally Satcom Direct services have reflected the needs of ultra-long-range aircraft, but for the first time, as the Plane Simple terminals are introduced to market this year, more aircraft sizes will have access to the full gamut of the Satcom Direct experience.

Looking to the future Jensen and his executive team are coming back down to earth, or rather sea,  with the expansion of the SD Marine division. The ambition is to emulate the superior in air experience for owners and operators of the largest yachts cruising the oceans, as well as supporting the dynamic environment of the sports fishing community. SD also has its eyes on the burgeoning UAM market and is closely monitoring developments in the supersonic sector. Undoubtedly there will be an SD service coming to a cabin near you, as it continues to deliver connectivity beyond all expectations for the next 25 years. 

Things to consider when selecting a connectivity solution

CYBERSECURITY

Altitude does not make you safe, and as data demand increases Satcom Direct has responded by offering a powerful three-tier suite of cybersecurity solutions to maintain data integrity. The entry level service provides active threat monitoring by pro-actively observing live flight data behaviour. At the SD state-of-the-art NOC, cybersecurity experts work with refined artificial intelligence systems to evaluate data transmission. If the system notes discrepancies the team proactively investigates, and subsequently initiates remedial activity by contacting the flight department, operator, or owner.  

An Advanced Encryption service purpose built for business aviation adds another level of service. The application of proprietary technology through the Satcom Direct Router, SDR® platforms, and SD infrastructure optimizes a secure, accelerated tunnel through which encrypted, anonymized data passes from the aircraft to the ground and back. Individual, data-heavy VPNs on personal devices are replaced as the system effectively cloaks the entire aircraft network, without compromising speed or performance. An SD Incident Response Team analyzes data on the fly, enabling the mitigation of potential events before they happen and a customized network configuration also enables separate WiFi network SSIDs based on passenger, and data priority, for complete principal security.

The first two layers provide strong protection, but when added to the SD Private Network the cyber security solution transforms the aircraft cabin into a secure corporate workspace. By routing encrypted data from the corporate aircraft to corporate headquarters – without ever touching the public internet – customers can be assured all corporate data is secure. According to the SD experts it is a matter of when, and not if, a cyber event will occur. SD is putting cybersecurity at the core of all its operations and encourages its customers to do the same. Think of it as a crash helmet for your data, you never want to use it, but you wouldn’t ride without it.

DATA INTEGRATION

Satcom Direct recognizes the value that integrating data delivers to those responsible for operating, managing, and owning aircraft. As the amounts of data generated continues to grow Satcom Direct has developed an open architecture platform that provides clear visibility into all aspects of the flight operation ecosystem, from the SD PreFlight planning module through to SD PostFlight reporting, and everything in between.

The SD Pro® digital flight management system improves the user experience by integrating carefully selected third-party suppliers into the platform. Inputted real-time data from the SD Pro system, and third-party suppliers, keeps the whole team synchronized by delivering information simultaneously to all users. This can be analyzed to provide powerful planning and management information.

To date mutual customers and subscribers of MySky, the aviation spend-management system,  VAT IT the tax recovery firm, Polaris Aero FlightRisk®, the advanced risk analysis system for pilots, fuelling company World Fuel and CAMP, the aircraft maintenance programme, amongst others, can access the data generated by these systems through the SD Pro dashboard.

“This streamlines all the processes related to flight operations resulting in an enriched ownership experience and seamless flight operations,” says Satcom Direct Business Aviation President, Chris Moore. “The power of aggregating real-time data to support long-term sustainability and growth for our common clients, and the business aviation sector as a whole, serves to raise industry standards by improving operational efficiencies.”

The benefits are numerous and tangible in terms of increasing transparency of asset management,  improving safety and situational awareness, safeguarding budgets, and ensuring synchronized information delivery to support informed decision making at all times. As overwhelming amounts of data continue to be generated the ability to manage and support the effective use of the information will become standard operating procedure for all, and Satcom Direct is already demonstrating how powerful this can be.