The Essential Role of Advanced Connectivity in eVTOL Operations

The evolution of urban air mobility, especially electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has ushered in a new era of transportation that combines innovation with the necessity of connectivity. Advanced connectivity is not just a luxury for these futuristic aircraft; it’s a foundational requirement, ensuring their efficient, safe, and reliable operation within the urban airspace.

Why Connectivity is Crucial for eVTOLs 

For eVTOLs, seamless connectivity underpins several critical functions, from basic communication needs to sophisticated data transmission and positioning. This high-level connectivity facilitates regular exchanges of vital information, including data crucial for the precise planning of routes through designated flying corridors. It enables eVTOLs to operate at lower altitudes, within the reach of mobile network ground base stations, enhancing air-to-air and air-to-ground communications vital for flight operations.

These connections are indispensable for several key services such as situational awareness, geo-awareness, and network remote identification. They rely on mobile connectivity technology to deliver low-latency, high-throughput connections that are becoming increasingly robust with the advancement towards 6G. This next-generation technology promises significant improvements in 5G slicing capabilities, allowing for dedicated network slices for specific services, enhanced location services, and integration of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

  1. Remote Piloting and Safety

One of the critical aspects of eVTOL operation is Remote Piloting, which demands a secure, standardized communication framework. This is where mobile network operators (MNOs) step in, providing a global foundation for these communications. The use of licensed spectrum bands offers a unique capability, enabling eVTOLs to conduct flight operations across extensive areas while ensuring that the connectivity is reserved exclusively for this purpose.

Moreover, the advanced capabilities of 5G technology allow for the flexible creation of private network frequency bands designated for eVTOL operations. This exclusivity ensures that the data channels between the aircraft and ground control are not only encrypted and swiftly transmitted in real-time but also offer Quality of Service (QoS) features. These features prioritize the transport of mission-critical data, such as high-quality video streams, ensuring the utmost safety and operational efficiency.

  1. Redundancy and Reliability

In the realm of mobile networks, redundancy is a key performance indicator, ensuring high availability and reliability of communication channels. eVTOL operations leverage this principle by employing redundant connectivity solutions, ensuring continuous and reliable data links. These links are managed through unique session IDs, maintained with “keep-alive” and “reestablishment” protocols, ensuring a persistent and secure connection.

  1. Complementary & Alternative Position and Navigation Information

Mobile connectivity also enriches eVTOL operations by offering alternative sources for precise aircraft positioning, complementing traditional GNSS devices with mobile network capabilities. 

This dual approach not only enhances the accuracy of positioning data, which is crucial for safe and efficient navigation, but also addresses a critical issue: satellite systems are increasingly vulnerable to spoofing and jamming, often resulting in the unavailability of positioning information. Consequently, cellular networks offer an essential alternative for aircraft positioning, known as A-PNT (Alternative Position, Navigation, Timing), ensuring reliable navigation even when satellite data is compromised.

Contrary, and particularly in recent years, GNSS/GPS systems show an increased vulnerability to jamming and spoofing, leading to malfunctioning or loss of the PNT (position, navigation & timing) capabilities of an aircraft. Wrong or missing PNT information can result in catastrophic events.  Fortunately, the advances in cellular technology can provide PNT information and can augment GPS / GNSS capabilities even under adverse conditions.  

  1. Elevating Passenger Experience with Advanced In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) Systems

In the rapidly evolving landscape of electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the integration of advanced In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems represents a significant leap forward in enhancing customer experience. The cornerstone of this transformation is the eVTOLs’ advanced cellular connectivity, which opens up a new realm of entertainment possibilities for passengers, making every journey not just a commute but an enjoyable experience or useful time for work related activities.

In conclusion, the integration of advanced mobile connectivity into eVTOL operations is a cornerstone for the future of urban air mobility. It supports critical operational functions, ensures safety through remote piloting and redundancy, complements and augments PNT capabilities, and enhances the overall passenger experience. As we move towards the adoption of 5G and 6G technology, the capabilities and benefits of this connectivity will only expand, further solidifying its role in shaping the skies of tomorrow.

MNOs oportunities for eVTOL market 

The advent of eVTOL technology brings with it the promise of swift, efficient urban air mobility. But beyond the technical marvels that make these aircraft a viable option for cityscapes, lies an equally important aspect—passenger satisfaction. It is here that advanced IFE systems play a pivotal role. By harnessing the power of mobile network operators’ (MNOs) broadband connectivity.

Mobile connectivity, particularly through the latest advancements in 5G and the anticipated capabilities of 6G, is the backbone of these enhanced IFE systems. It provides the bandwidth and speed necessary for eVTOL passengers to access a wide spectrum of media services. These include real-time news broadcasts, an extensive library of movies, engaging gaming experiences, and even video conferencing tools for business reasons. Such services are not just add-ons but are integrated into the very fabric of the eVTOL passenger experience, thanks to dedicated data links that ensure uninterrupted, high-quality media streaming.

Mobile Network Operators are strategically positioned to capitalize on the burgeoning eVTOL market by delivering advanced connectivity solutions critical for eVTOL operations and passenger experiences. As eVTOLs become a staple in urban air mobility, MNOs’ role extends beyond mere service providers to integral partners in ensuring operational efficiency, safety, and in-flight entertainment.

MNOs can harness the power of 5G and the forthcoming 6G technologies to offer secure, standardized communication frameworks essential for remote piloting and real-time data transfer, a requirement for the safe operation of eVTOLs over extended urban areas. These advanced networks enable MNOs to provide the high-throughput, low-latency connections eVTOLs depend on for functions like route planning and real-time situational awareness.

In addition to operational connectivity, MNOs can offer redundancy that ensures continuous and secure data links, which are crucial for maintaining the high availability and reliability of eVTOL services. 

As MNOs integrate these services into eVTOL platforms, they not only enhance the value proposition of urban air travel but also open up new revenue streams, by utilizing existing terrestrial infrastructure for the digital airspace. By providing passengers with an immersive in-flight experience and operators with reliable connectivity for safe operations, MNOs can establish themselves as vital contributors to the future of urban air mobility.