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Airborne network assessment with cloud impact and satellite integration

Aeronautical ad-hoc communication networking (AANET) represents a new paradigm in air transport, providing connectivity to airliners beyond the performance limits of one-on-one, plane-to-satellite links. A critical task is to evaluate the effectiveness of AANETs in relation to future bandwidth demand, internet gateway (IGW) availability, and atmospheric impairments.

At Bauhaus Luftfahrt, a simulation environment capable of modelling large-scale AANETs, considering worldwide air traffic with typically up to 50,000 flights per day, has been developed. Simulations are used to optimise network performance in terms of connectivity, data capacity, and dynamics, and global cloud datasets from NASA earth observation satellites are used to evaluate weather impact on network availability.

Compact and high-speed, plane-to-plane laser links provide orders-of-magnitude improvements in communication bandwidth, enabling airlines to offer broadband services to passengers, flight and maintenance crews. Our studies show that air traffic is sufficiently dense to support large-scale AANETs across Europe and North America, near Middle Eastern air traffic hubs, and in large parts of Asia and South America.

Due to the high frequency of domestic flights, terrestrial IGWs may provide data services to most aircraft even without satellite links. For long-range, oceanic routes with lower air traffic density, laser terminals (LT) on satellites and high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) may provide necessary infrastructure. Although the number of available LTs may be limited for reasons of complexity, weight, or cost, AANET allows many aircraft to benefit.

  • Aeronautical ad-hoc communication networking: Satellite laser links can supply remote clusters with internet access and optimise network performance by improving the distribution of data loads.Aeronautical ad-hoc communication networking: Satellite laser links can supply remote clusters with internet access and optimise network performance by improving the distribution of data loads.