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Thuraya & XT Hotspot - Inflight?

Forgot to mention something important of how our SAT box works. Basically with the Short Burst Data version (SBC) it is the SAT box that is fetching the weather from our weather server at regular times in the background, then storing the latest enroute weather in the SAT box in the aircraft.

We fetch the weather based on the aircraft position and the route filed. Then we deliver the latest enroute weather to the iPad/iPad user using our app. So, the weather is getting to your plane in the background as small packages of information are being send out to the aircraft (only that information that changed). Then, when you check the weather on your iPad all the latest enroute weather is already there. The Iridium data speed is not that essential in this solution. OK. This is a data-only Iridium solution, so no calling your taxi-company while flying to destination.

Next to the weather information you can communicate 2-ways via text messages, email and SMS. For the rest I assume you are flying the aircraft and watching the Youtube videos and news sites while at home.

Finally we are also tracking the aircraft and provide the pilot or aircraft operator/flightschool with all the flight data. And we can register any large G forces or strange movements (mini-AHRC build in), so that rental companies can know if e.g. a very hard landing was made.

Wouldn't the above functionality be sufficient for most pilots, flightschools and aircraft operators?

I understand that the Thuraya solution offers better data speeds and we are investigating to make a Thuraya version as well. Our hardware consists of 2 boards. One communication boards sits on top of a main board. We thought about using a Raspberry Pi PCB board as the basis, but the availability of these boards is not guaranteed and sometimes even difficult, so we designed our own board(s). Since the COMMS board is separate, it is quite easy to extend on the idea and deliver a second solution with a Thuraya chip there.

The European aviation market is too small to focus only on making a solution for GA pilots in Europe. The Linux server build in makes it possible to manage the data being requested and received and to limit this.

Any suggestions of critical views are welcomed on this concept.

EDLE, Netherlands

I use the satphone to get tafs and metars for a selection of airports near and at my destination, so I don't get any last minute suprises.

Normally I pick up that info with 1-2hrs to run, so that a diversion can be done intelligently, to a place where one is actually willing to spend a night

I have no interest in surface weather enroute, though a continuously updated list of metars for airports along the route would be good for emergency diversion purposes.

IMHO you are right to make your own hardware. People who use popular retail hardware are fighting a constant battle with planned obsolescence. The only thing you need to watch is the processor going obsolete, but some industrial microcontrollers have been running unchanged for 20+ years.

Thuraya's much better speed and lower cost opens up many possibilities such as checking emails. The problem with satellite phone SMSs is that very often they are not delivered (in either or both directions). For example Thuraya tend to work with T-Mobile but not with Vodafone. I think this is deliberate, to force people to make a voice call at €6/minute. But any "modern" person can check emails with their phone.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The product for in-flight weather that you are working on sounds really interesting.

Are you sure that it is the best way forward to have a dedicated software on the iPad/iPhone for presenting the weather? Or maybe that is necessary. But I would be even more interested if your hardware could interface with existing software such as Skydaemon, Air Navigation Pro, Fore Flight, etc and that the weather would be displayed in those programs.


I don't believe in custom hardware for such things. It's expensive to develop and quickly outdated. Everybody has a smartphone/tablet and thus a great display and all you need is a wifi connected receiver (Bluetooth would be even better but locked out for custom devices by Apple before iPad 4 / iPhone 5).

Iridium is very slow and expensive and its world wide coverage is only a plus when one spends time outside of North America (with ADS-B and WX) and Europe/Asia (with Thuraya). Iridium is not suitable to get real nice pictures such as IR satellite images but this is a great thing to have. Also, as a service provider, it is very hard to get access to weather data -- the national weather services in Europe want a lot of money for things like RADAR images and you have to deal with every single of them. The do-it-yourself solution can make use of the free end user sites offering that data. My site collects data from 8 different weather providers in one optimized satellite interface but I could not offer that commercially.

There are great hardware devices out there that one can combine with a Thuraya phone. I particularly like the TP-Link Wireless Routers which have an integrated battery and run DD-WRT, a free and open source Linux firmware for which there is a large development community. You can implant any logic you like on a device that costs less than $40.

My next step is to install a rooftop antenna for Thuraya. Having to position the phone in view of the geo-stationary satellite is cumbersome. Then I need to find a way to stop the iPad from doing all kinds of background data transfers when connected to internet. Most likely this will be done with a firewall rule in the Thuraya hotspot, limiting connections to my private website which aggregates all data.

Just like with the Cirrus Perspective Global Connect solution, we just get the needed weather in the background and only transfer the weather changes after that. We do this while you are climbing out and provide you the latest enroute weather when you need it through your iPad. Next to that, for sending SMS messages we use a gateway to send the SMS messages. The Iridium chip we are using is data only. No voice calls. No real SMS. And the SMS messages are there only to be sent in case you want to alert someone like a taxi driver to inform him of your arrival time at the airport. Not everyone reads their e-mails while a SMS message or push message is noticed faster. Sending someone an e-mail message is of course no problem but limited in length.

We need to connect the weather that will then be "sitting" inside the SAT box to either our own applications and/or provide an API to SD and others. Initially we will make it work with our own software, then think about possibly teaming up or not.

There is no way you can use our SAT box to browse the internet, but the good part of this is that you also don't have the costs associated with this. The data we send over the Iridium network is minimal.

EDLE, Netherlands

I don't believe in custom hardware for such things. It's expensive to develop and quickly outdated

I was thinking of the wifi interface only, not the display device which would obviously be one's favourite wifi-capable smartphone or whatever.

Those who use consumer IT hardware get the advantage of getting cheap hardware, probably in a pretty package which would cost money to mould, but they are continually hacking their software to work on the next year's version...

In the satphone business, things move very slowly.

How would you connect a rooftop antenna to the Thuraya XT? Does it have an RF connection like the 7100? The 7100's RF connector really need their car holder and I found it (the Turkish-made Sattrans one) generate appalling amounts of interference, due to the internal power supply / charger.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Just to steer this back to the original topic:

achimha - for the remainder of your flight to egypt did the Thuraya perform consistently? If I were to buy it and lie it on the glareshield (of an SR22) do you think that would provide sufficient line of sight?

do you have any view yet on how much data was consumed and the actual cost?


achimha - for the remainder of your flight to egypt did the Thuraya perform consistently? If I were to buy it and lie it on the glareshield (of an SR22) do you think that would provide sufficient line of sight?

I had some difficulties establishing a GmPRS connection lateron but I was rather busy during the flight and couldn't spend much time on it. I will do more testing on Friday/Saturday. The fact that you have to point the phone to the satellite makes it a bit impractical -- an external antenna will be required. I plan to use the car holder and corresponding antenna.

do you have any view yet on how much data was consumed and the actual cost?

You can always query your account with *151# and I've consumed less than $10 so far and I did quite some stuff (even download my mail). I think data transfer cost will not be a factor for typical cockpit use. You get megabytes for what you pay for bytes with Iridium and it only takes seconds and not ten minutes. If Thuraya proves to be reliable it will be the far better solution than Iridium for European customers.

Thank you for your very valuable feedback. Given I lease my current aircraft it will be impractical for me to install such an external antenna but regardless of my personal situation this still sounds a great option for GA aircraft owners.


With the Thuraya 7100 phone, I have not found it needed to be pointed at the satellite. Just having the antenna rod in view of the satellite is fine.

Maybe the XT phone is more sensitive?

But one could not practically use it for voice (its main use, surely, marketing-wise) if it had to be thus pointed.

A rooftop antenna (I posted a link to my installation here a while ago, I think) is not cheap - about £500 plus getting somebody to mount it, with a proper doubler plate, and without bodging it so that moisture gets in between the two. A proper job needs PRC1422 sealant, not the white silicone commonly used.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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