Objectives of the service
ATR-42 aircraft from SAFIRE: French airborne science operator testing the PLATIN system
The objective of PLATIN service is to answer the real-time mission information exchange needs of aerial work operators. PLATIN service may be used to operate diverse platforms: aircraft, rotorcraft, UAV, balloon.
PLATIN is a major evolution of the already existing PLANET service. Thanks to new mobile satellite connectivity generation, PLATIN intends to provide cutting edge applicative services leveraging flight mission efficiency.
The innovative services and features offered by PLATIN include:
- New Applicative Services (video transmission, bulk telemetry)
- Improved Network Services (security, QoS)
- New Generation of Terminal Equipment (Iridium Certus integration)
- Improved Service Level, Usability, Operability and Maintainability
- Better alignment with Standards
Users and their needs
The service developed in the frame of PLATIN project targets aerial work segment: aircraft manufacturers’ flight tests, science flights, surveillance flights, etc...
PLATIN aims at:
- Improving PLANET service for special flight operations with new features and better performances
- Providing a solution for UAV air-to-ground connectivity via SATCOM
Therefore, two partners have been selected for the pilot phase of the project:
- SAFIRE, a French airborne science operator, which will test the system on their fleet (ATR42, Falcon 20, Piper Aztec),
- QUANTUM, a German UAV manufacturer, which will embed PLATIN system on their UAV
Service/ system concept
The two main components of the system are the onboard segment and the ground segment.
The onboard segment is composed of a hardware server that either embed or interface with the Satcom. This server also hosts all the PLATIN application. The application is responsible for data acquisition (for instance, video streams from external cameras or telemetry from external instruments), data optimization (compression, priority) and transmission towards the ground segment.
The ground segment provides data storage and data presentation to ground users, as well as several APIs to allow third party applications to interconnect with PLATIN.
Both onboard and ground segments host a web interface that provide an HMI to users.
Space Added Value
There are several space technology elements involved in the solution. The most important one is satellite communication as means for data communication while in-flight. But other technologies are involved such as satellite navigation for carrier tracking and geo-location or satellite observation, as primary source for some weather nowcast products that are intensively transmitted during operations.
SATCOM plays a central role in the overall system architecture. This is the link between onboard and ground segments during flight phases. Satellite communication provides the unique capability to offer global in-flight connectivity.
Satellite Navigation is mandatory for carrier geo-location as tracking is the most important basic feature of PLATIN system.
Concerning Satellite Observation, this is one of the main sources of nowcast weather products transmitted during operations. Satellite imagery and all its derived products (RDT for Rapid Development Thunderstorm for instance) are often requested by users as a supporting feature to the mission.
PLATIN baseline system has been developed, factory tested, and deployed for pilot operations on fixed wing aircraft and UAVs. The Final Review milestone was held with ESA on the 4th of July 2022.
Planned fixed wing pilot operations on ATR-42 have been completed, and a first customer installation deployed on Falcon-6X to support OEM Natural Icing Certification campaign. This flight test campaign has been performed during first semester 2022.
UAV pilot operations have been performed on multirotors operated by ATMOSPHERE. For the PLATIN UAV pilot, ATMOSPHERE has developed its own flight test capability, including infrastructure (UAV systems and test field), human resources (recruitment of an UAV licensed pilot), and regulatory provisions (operator license, insurance, and operations manual). PLATIN UAV pilot operations have been performed during spring 2022.
ESA has granted a Contract Change Notice (CCN) in February 2022, to develop a Satcom terminal supporting new Iridium Certus® Service. Based on Iridium CertusTM 9770 modem, the PLANET 9770 terminal provides more than 10 times the capacity of legacy Iridium terminals.
The development and qualification activities have been completed in 2022, and Iridium certified two Satcom terminal configurations (with low profile and high profile antennas). ATMOSPHERE’s certified products are now displayed on Iridium website.
A PLANET 9770 unit has been installed on a multirotor UAV for pilot operations. The Site Acceptance Test of the pilot configuration has been successful performed in Wessling, with a first flight witnessed by ESA in January 2023. The subsequent pilot operations have enabled to build trust in the reliability of the solution, get return from experience from field operations and showcase the solution to new prospects. This complementary activity was successfully closed in June 2023.
The product was displayed at Iridium Partners Conference in Palms Springs (USA) in April 2023.