ThinKom’s Satellite Antenna Radome Records Near-Zero Drag on Regional Jets

ThinKom Solutions, a leading developer of broadband antennas and products for various markets, have just completed a third-party study for their Ka-band satellite antenna to evaluate its drag value on regional jets. The design of the Ka2517 has been driven by lessons learned in the design of several generations of SATCOM radomes. With each generation, the radome shapes have been refined for lower drag, reduced aerodynamic impact on the host aircraft and improved bird-strike resistance.

Industry expert David Lednicer, Vice President of Engineering at Aeromechanical Solutions, conducted a series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses to predict the drag and incremental fuel burn for ThinKom’s Ka2517 antenna on different regional jet airframes under representative cruise conditions. In all cases, the drag increase due to the installation of the antenna was determined to be less than 0.4 percent of the aircraft’s cruise drag. As the drag of regional jets is quite low, this is a significant accomplishment.

The study used the Star-CCM+ Navier-Stokes CFD Program which allows all of the flow physics to be modeled. The regional jets evaluated in the study included Boeing 717, Embraer (ERJ-145 and ERJ-175) and Bombardier (CRJ-200, CRJ-550 and CRJ-700).

Bill Milroy, CTO at ThinKom Solutions, believes, this independent analysis by a recognized industry expert confirms the feasibility for airline carriers to outfit their regional jet fleets with broadband in-flight connectivity (IFC). It’s imperative that aerodynamic drag and weight be minimized to make satellite IFC economically viable on these aircraft. Adding IFC to regional fleets will enable airlines to enhance customer loyalty by offering a common IFC experience across their entire wide body, narrow body and regional fleets. Other capabilities such as uninterrupted gate-to-gate service on the tarmac and the move toward free Wi-Fi will only accelerate the deployment of IFC services throughout the airlines’ entire fleet.

ThinKom’s Ka2517 phased-array antennas, currently in production, are operational on a fleet of U.S. government aircrafts, with multiple commercial STC projects underway. The antennas have successfully completed in-flight demonstration tests on a range of LEO, MEO and GEO networks with fast, seamless satellite-to-satellite and constellation-to-constellation beam switching.