Wireless Hotspots For GA Aircraft


Full-time internet connectivity is a fact of life for businesses, homes and even some cars and will soon be just as common in light aircraft, according to Avidyne’s Dan Schwinn. The company is busily whiteboarding what may be the next big thing in avionics. He explained his vision of the future in this long-form AVweb podcast.

“Right now, a GA aircraft is one of the few places you go and there is no connectivity,” Schwinn said in this podcast recorded at Sun ‘n Fun. While Sirius XM data, ground and satellite phones and data through ADS-B are common, that’s barely a beginning, Schwinn believes. “None of these are what I would call general-purpose connectivity. And that is where we need to get. It’s where businesses got first, homes got second and cars are getting there now. And larger airplanes are getting there now,” he adds.

While satellite data link is widely available and so are ground-based data link system, none are yet evolved to the point of the continuous connectivity Schwinn believes light aircraft will have to have. “And we see that as the next big area of equipage after ADS-B,” Schwinn says. “My vision is an airplane that’s connected absolutely all of the time.”

This will most likely come through a combination of the broad coverage of satellite systems and the faster and cheaper ground data links, including existing Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks. What’s needed is the avionics hardware to tie it all together. “If we have a data pipeline to the ground that’s available all the time, the world is a different place,” he says, potentially offering real-time flight tracking and monitoring. “The first solo could be a totally different experience during the next decade. I really hope and expect that these kinds of applications are going to increase safety,” Schwinn says. Avidyne expects to have a wireless hotspot of some kind certified by 2018.