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2021: Inmarsat’s year in aviation

Aviation

It’s been a tale of recovery, sustainability, and new product launches.

Although the global pandemic has once again dominated the past 12 months, there was still plenty of cause for optimism within the aviation industry. The airline and business aviation sectors continued to prove their resilience, passenger confidence gradually returned and it was a great year for green initiatives, with sustainability vying for a centre seat as aviation returned to something approaching normality.

At Inmarsat, we launched new networks, new innovations, and new approaches to digitalising the aviation industry. It was certainly an eventful year. So, let’s remind ourselves how 2021 played out …

January

For those urging aviation to go greener, the new year gets off to an encouraging start. Among a raft of positive environmental schemes, Inmarsat revealed that we would provide satellite connectivity for the UK’s first automated, zero-carbon regional air transportation network.

The good news continued, as the 250th installation of our award-winning European Aviation Network (EAN) inflight broadband solution was activated. And we celebrated five years of our high-speed Global Xpress satellite network by announcing ambitious plans for its future.

February

Inmarsat and Altitude Angel’s innovative Pop-Up Unmanned Traffic Management platform, which delivers beyond visual line of sight for UAVs, won best UTM Service Suppliers at the Air Traffic Management (ATM) Magazine Awards.

March

At the Aviation Achievement Awards 2021, we took home the Satellite Network Service Provider of the Year for successfully transforming the world of inflight connectivity.

April

In a sign of the times, Qatar Airways flew the world’s first-ever fully vaccinated flight. That included all check-in staff, onboard cabin crew and passengers. Inmarsat supported the flight by providing our GX Aviation inflight broadband and powering a 27-minute Instagram livestream.

May

And with airline travel returning, a British television ITV journalist broadcast live from a British Airways UK to Portugal flight 35,000 feet over France. The transmission was made possible by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom’s EAN connectivity service.

June

At the Corporate Jet Investor (CJI) Global Conference, our Head of Business and General Aviation, Kai Tang, delivered a timely speech highlighting the benefits of a reliable and consistent connectivity service for business aviation.

We also published the results of a survey that we ran in conjunction with Corporate Jet Investor. Among a host of beneficial insights, and a clear sense of optimism for business aviation, it’s made clear that online activities will dominate Principals’ time in the sky – reinforcing the need for a robust connectivity solution.

July

We announced plans to launch the communications network of the future, ORCHESTRA, to seamlessly integrate GEO, LEO and terrestrial 5G into one harmonious solution.

Our SB-S connectivity platform for aviation operations and safety successfully powered the first ever test of a digital cockpit application on a Boeing 737 aircraft within Chinese domestic civil aviation. The tests were conducted by Shenzhen Airlines, in partnership with Inmarsat and China Transport Telecommunication Information Group Company Limited (CTTIC).

Inmarsat and APEX held another iteration of our highly successful online broadcast, FlightPlan. This time held over one week, FlightPlan C-Suite Week, saw five of aviation’s leading figures interviewed about the state of the industry.

Gulfstream celebrated the 500th installation of our Jet ConneX connectivity platform.

August

The transformation of our L-band network was announced. Inmarsat ELERA, a global narrowband network for our rapidly connected world, chimes perfectly with the Internet of Things technology.

This was followed by the news that Inmarsat’s ground-breaking Iris air traffic modernisation solution is being evaluated onboard the Boeing 2021 ecoDemonstrator 737-9 aircraft, in partnership with Alaska Airlines.

September

We launched our Velaris connectivity solution. Powered by the innovative ELERA network, Velaris will help unlock the unlimited possibilities of the unmanned aviation industry, safely integrating UAVs into mixed airspace.

We also unveiled OneFi, a new customer passenger experience platform that will help airlines to monetise inflight connectivity and transform their passenger experience.

September also saw the publication of our annual Passenger Confidence Tracker. The 2021 version – the world’s largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind since the start of the pandemic – noted an encouraging upturn in passenger confidence.

October

A ground-breaking report by Inmarsat and Cranfield University found that commercial UAVs have the potential to reduce C02 emissions of urban freight transport by almost 50%.

We confirmed that our strategic partner BSNL has received the necessary licenses to deliver Inmarsat’s world-leading Global Xpress(GX) mobile broadband services in India.

We marked a successful return to NBAA-BACE with the news that we’d reached the 1,000th installation of Jet ConneX - the gold standard connectivity service for business aviation.

November

We celebrated GX Aviation’s fifth birthday. Since entering commercial service in 2016, the award-winning solution has been selected by more than 35 airlines and activated on over 550 aircraft, with approximately 1,000 additional aircraft in the order book.

APEX EXPO 2021 returned in a physical format, bringing our FlightPlan broadcast event to the show, in person for the first time!

Inmarsat and Viasat announced plans to combine.

December

Our high-performance terminal, developed with GDC Advanced Technology, received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for installations on Boeing 737s.

The national airline of Saudi Arabia, SAUDIA, celebrated its deal with Inmarsat at APEX EXPO. The first installations of GX Aviation and OneFi onboard will be completed in 2022.

Inmarsat was crowned ‘World’s Best Inflight Internet Service Provider’ for the fifth consecutive year at the World Travel Tech Awards in recognition of our market-leading GX Aviation and European Aviation Network (EAN) solutions.

We also achieved our first major milestone for ORCHESTRA, with the successful activation of a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite payload. The LEO satellite will seamlessly integrate with geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites, and a terrestrial 5G network, to deliver a uniquely powerful global communications solution for mobility and government customers.

Finally, on Wednesday 22 December, Inmarsat celebrated the launch of I-6 F1 – the world’s largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellite – from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan . This is the first of our hybrid I-6 satellites, featuring both L-band (ELERA) and Ka-band (Global Xpress) communications payloads.

You can watch the launch as it took place here.