Thompson Aerospace in the Media..

Avionics: An Operator's guide to Flight Tracking Solutions

Aircraft Tracking

Flight tracking solutions have been popping up right and left since the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) early 2016 adoption of aircraft tracking provisions spurred by the loss of Malaysia Airlines airliner MH370 in 2014. As part of ICAO’s Normal Aircraft Tracking Implementation Initiative (NATII), the new provisions, which are soon expected to be adopted by local aviation authorities and made into requirements, are designed to prevent the loss of commercial aircraft position reporting when an aircraft is experiencing distress or flying in remote airspace with no radar coverage. For now, ICAO has recommended that by November 2018, all airlines know where each of its aircraft are located while in flight at 15 minute intervals during normal operations. Furthermore, by 2021, ICAO recommends that each new aircraft coming off the production line must have the ability to autonomously broadcast its position at intervals of one minute or less should it enter a distress mode — a term still in the process of being defined by ICAO and local aviation authorities.

In March 2016, ICAO adopted these initiatives and laid out Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to address this Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS) Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) concept.

“Anybody can meet the 2018 recommendation, it’s fairly simple and almost every widebody aircraft in service today can meet the requirement. The 2021 requirement has everybody upside down, however. That’s the [standard] that will require the system to operate on loss of power, the equipment has to be autonomous and unable to be disconnected by the flight crew and it has to be able to survive a structural breakup of the aircraft. The 2021 standard is going to require [airlines] to meet all of these expectations that require you to get data off the aircraft at all times,” says Mark Thompson, president of Thompson Aerospace.

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Avionics: What Existing Flight Tracking Solutions Can Meet ICAO’s New Amendments?

The disappearances of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014 and the 2009 Air France 447 have triggered new global aviation industry standards around tracking flights. With the need for more robust aircraft tracking highlighted by even more recent aircraft disappearances such as Egyptair flight MS804, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) finalized Suggested and Recommended Practices (SARPs) around commercial flight tracking late last year. The recommendations, known as the Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS), are calling for 15-minute position reporting in normal flying conditions and one-minute position reporting for aircraft that are “under distress.”

Thompson Aerospace also developed a solution that is reliant on Iridium satellites and uses a cell phone-like device via a satellite radio to comply with GADSS recommendations. “This gathers all the data all the time and if any data is out of tolerance, we send an alert,” Thompson Aerospace CEO Mark Thompson said during the Avionics for NextGen aircraft tracking panel. The system only uses three watts of power and can also send messages using the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) network.

Leeham News and Comment: Inexpensive real-time FDR system developed by California firm

Aircraft Tracking

Egyptair Flight MS804 disappeared from radar on May 19, 2016 and there is very little known about the last minutes of the flight at this writing. A French ship two weeks ago reported hearing pings on the same frequency as the flight’s black boxes. As yet, the pinging hasn’t been confirmed as being from those boxes. The main wreckage and these boxes have yet to be discovered. With the designed 30-day battery life of the pinger expiring just days away, this is yet another example of why real-time transmission of flight data from the airplane to the ground is needed. As with MH370, followed by Air Asia Flight 8501 (whose boxes and wreckage were eventually discovered and recovered), the mystery surrounding MS804 spur new calls for action to provide real-time data streaming of a flight’s important information about the performance of the airplane and any anomalies.

Thompson Aerospace of Irvine "has developed the first fully ICAO compliant aircraft tracking (SGATS)," says Craig Jones, vice president of development. "Had MH370 or Egypt Air be equipped with the SGATS there would be no mystery today." Mark Thompson, president of the firm, said current efforts and proposals are slogging along because “the main problem with the costs is they are trying to use their existing products."

Thompson Aerospace developed a technology that uses a cell phone-like device via a satellite radio. “This gathers all the data all the time and if any data is out of tolerance, we send an alert,” the president said. The unit uses less than three watts. “We give a service level agreement, the customer pays a one-time set up fee $10,000 per plane and gets Wi-Fi hardware support for a fixed price $100/mo as long as you own that aircraft. If regulatory guys change the rules, we replace the hardware at our cost,” Thompson said.

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Fox Business: Thompson Aerospace featured on TALK BUSINESS 360 on April 23, 2016

Thompson Aerospace is the producer of Aerospace Systems which allows aircraft data to be seamlessly available on a secured cloud network. Mark Thompson, CEO says about their new exciting product., Secure Aircraft Tracking Module (SATM) which not only does real time tracking and alert status anywhere in the world , it allows airline to access any data that goes to flight data recorder. It is low power and is like a smart phone to a plane. It can provide 14 hours of tracking in the event of loss of power.

Avionics: ICAO Makes Progress on Improving Global Flight Tracking

ICAO Building

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has adopted new provisions designed to prevent the loss of commercial aircraft position reporting when an aircraft is experiencing distress or flying in remote airspace with no radar coverage. An announcement released by ICAO last week outlines the new provisions as amendments to Annex 6 of the Chicago Convention, which originally established ICAO as a specialized agency for the United Nations nearly 70 years ago.

ICAO's adoption of the new provisions were announced on the two-year anniversary of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 incident, in which a Boeing 777 operated by the Asia-Pacific carrier disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

Avionics: Aircraft Cyber Security Protection Scaling Up

Cyber Security

As aircraft become increasingly e-enabled, the avionics industry is directly addressing the cyber security risks associated with Internet Protocol (IP) with new products, standards and federally regulated security protocols and methods.

Cyber security risks associated with increasingly Internet Protocol (IP) connected aircraft became a global concern in 2015 after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report raised concerns that the increased IP networking featured on modern aircraft has created a challenge with interconnectivity between cockpit avionics and cabin broadband networks.

Firewalls are used to separate cockpit avionics from intrusion by cabin systems users, however the report states that because firewalls are software components, “they could be hacked like any other software and circumvented.” That lead to a year of headlines and interviews with experts over what can be done to address those risks.

Thompson Aerospace CEO, Mark Thompson says that the Irvine, CA. based provider of aircraft tracking virtual Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and secure data transfer products has a new system, the Connectivity Server Unit version 2 (CSUv2), designed to address all of the cyber claims featured in the 2015 GAO report associated with cyber risks on today’s aircraft. CSU v2 has the processing, memory and I/O capabilities to enable a single part number to support all types of aircraft. The server has 2 QUAD core processors, each with 1,000 gigabytes of storage, to allow real-time processing and distribution of any ARINC, discrete, or other type of data to be sent over an Iridium link, wireless access point or LTE cellular network. But the real security comes into its dedication to hardware security engine duality and government security standards.

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Avionics: Thompson Aerospace Offers Tracking, Data Solution to Meet New EASA Regulations

Thompson Aerospace of Irvine, California is offering its secure aircraft tracking/data solution to meet the new EASA rules released on Dec. 16, 2015. The new EASA regulations provides airlines options to meet the requirements: either a new real-time, robust data system or to equip the aircraft with an upgraded traditional Underwater Locating Device (ULD).

Thompson’s solution is available to all aircraft types, with the first Standard Type Certificates (STC) expected in March 2016 on the Boeing 767-200, 767-300 and MD-10 aircraft.

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IFExpress: Thompson Aerospace Develops a Global Aircraft Tracking Solution

Thompson SATM

Thompson Aerospace (TA), has rolled out a new product, and we note, it is not IFE related, but rather, it focuses on the “C” or connectivity part of our aviation interest. The product is the Secure Global Aircraft Tracking Unit (SGATU), a fully compliant tracking solution for commercial aircraft.

In an interview with IFExpress, Mark said., "We have always been a company focused on low cost, high reliable IP based networks and as an IFE system is the largest consumer of data on an aircraft, our technology worked very well. We focussed on secure IP network technology and redesigned our network to be in compliance with RTCA new standards, DO-326, 355 356 and FIPS 140-2."

Aviation Week: Airlines Get Jump on Tracking Mandates

Aviation week

European mandates for aircraft tracking and crash site identification are driving an evolution in legacy surveillance technologies and creating new solutions. But both approaches will have to pass airlines' cost-benefit muster. Thompson Aerospace’s Secure Aircraft Tracking Module (SATM), is an independent, tamperproof add-on designed to meet upcoming mandates at minimum cost and with maximum return.

The new rules, approved by the European Commission in mid-December, generally follow the design and implementation schedule of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposed standards for tracking and alerting, developed in response to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) in March 2014. While Europe may have been first to roll out new rules to codify the recommendations, other countries are likely to follow suit once the ICAO proposals are finalized, most likely this year.

While airlines had largely committed voluntarily to implementing a 15-min. position update rate through existing equipage after the MH370 disappearance, carriers are now analyzing how to deliver everyday value from the upgrades. “A lot of people are signed up for normal mode reporting through various channels, and now that EASA has published its rule, it’s going to force something to happen,” says Thompson Aerospace President and CEO Mark Thompson. “Our view is that if you pick the right technology, you’ll get the tracking for free,” he adds.

Avionics: Thompson to Boost Flight Tracking for Orbis


Orbis, the New York-based Flying Eye Hospital, is enhancing its aircraft flight tracking capabilities with a donation from Thompson Aerospace. The organization had been looking to up its ability to track its heavily modified MD-10 airliner in the remote locations the aircraft operates ahead of entering it into service, according to Bruce Johnson, director of aircraft operations at Orbis.

"The Thompson Secure Aerospace Global Aircraft Tracking System (SGATS) provides us with unique capabilities. Because we operate in remote locations, the SGATS provides us with unparalleled data security, meets all ICAO aircraft tracking recommendations, and allows us to follow the aircraft throughout the world in real time," said Johnson. Thompson completed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) flight testing on the SATM in June 2015, and acquired its first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) in September.

The California-based aerospace manufacturer was looking to introduce a secure flight tracking solution that goes beyond the highly publicized 15-minute position reporting for normal flight operations recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said Mark Thompson, the company's CEO.

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IFExpress: Thompson Rolls Out Secure Aircraft Data Solution


If the concept of the Internet and aviation makes you nervous, you aren’t alone. More specifically, connectivity of any kind and airplanes are an issue that will keep tongues wagging for some time to come. While we must admit, aviation data communication and hacking are not our strong suit; we are none-the-less concerned and have been trying to keep up with the rapidly changing connectivity landscape.

One point that seems to be at issue is: data communication is not necessarily best sent point-to-point, especially if there is a lot of it. Rather, storage is best, either on the plane, but eminently more useful, if stored in the Cloud. While safer stored on a plane, it is usually not available till the plane has landed.

Not only is localized permanent storage of gigabytes of data challenging, access and usage may be needed worldwide and thus very secure, Internet storage is chosen as more favorable for Big Data. And, we have not even mentioned passenger data, but the Thompson solution includes that too.

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IFExpress: Thompson Aerospace Offers Real Time Flight Tracking and Performance

With the recent launch of the 1NETv2, Thompson Aerospace has incorporated flight tracking and real- time performance data alerting and streaming. The 1NETv2, which continuously connects the aircraft to the cloud, collects all Category C and higher data and utilizes their patented hardware security to create the first secure Airborne Local Area Network.

Mr. Thompson added, “We announced the launch of the CSUv2 server a few months ago. The CSUv2 has built in GPS, Iridium and accelerometer. It collects all data including aircraft systems and with predetermined parameters sends alerts to the airline. In the event that a parameter exceedance becomes critical we can stream all pertinent data such as position, performance, turbulence, auto pilot disconnect, etc. Most of the recent news has implied solutions are yet to be developed and will be relatively expensive for implementation. Our 1NET v2 is already available and very economical. In addition to standard tracking data, the airlines receive all aircraft performance and system data for normal operations. This allows the airline to have immediate visibility to the aircraft health data and can expedite turn around times and improve predictive maintenance capability”.

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IFExpress: Thompson is on the right track when it comes to handling aircraft 'big data' as well as IFE and passenger data communication

As usual Mark Thompson had a few new and "different" takes on the IFE business. There were at least two big ones, which he shared with us. Perhaps the biggest news is he has formed a joint venture with Imagik who will be handling the sales of his system and since they already produce their inseat screens. The JV gives Thompson the opportunity to focus on the server/technology side of the product. The second item of note from the interview is the developments in their server technology. To quote Mark, "The biggest problem in this business has always been managing the data." To that end, Thompson has employed some very clever solutions and the key to their data management schemes is to maintain a secure connection between the aircraft and the ground and provide a scheme for validation between the airborne unit and the cloud. With the advent of a lot of credit cards sales, both onboard and off board the aircraft, Thompson has designed their server with FIPS security "...equal to that used by the US Federal Reserve," he noted.

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APEX: Show Me The Money


Noting that airlines are the "poor people" of the industry, Thompson Aerospace CEO, Mark Thompson wants to re-engineer the IFE model and have it become a profit - not cost - center for airlines. His approach mimics that of television, in which his company is the network and airlines are the local affiliates, receiving free content and equipment in exchange for letting the network sell ads. Thompson's technology includes a mobile phone modem that, on the ground, downloads ads for display on the next flight.

The model is already in use with Italy's Livingston and was used on now-defunct Bahrain Air.(Thompson has STCs for the A319 and A320) But those airlines also used Thompson's custom-made embedded screens, whose much higher system meant airlines had to pay for the system. Thompson is willing to cover the cost of the wireless system without embedded screens.

Thompson sees his model working best on short-haul flights when, he says passengers are "more interested in destination content than first-run movies".

IFExpress: How Much Money Has Your IFE Made?


The airline industry is a great industry, but it is also a terrible business." - anonymous. This Hot Topic began as a simple phone call to Thompson Aerospace as a result of the CEO's request for a return call. Planning a standard set of questions about new hardware, airline take-up, weight (Oh, it does weigh 3.2 pounds per seat) our interview began as most. Mark Thompson (President & CEO) began the data run down and if you have met him, you just hang on because a LOT of data is coming your way. And it did, a lot. Somewhere in the middle of the second question about advertising on the system he said: "...and we are generating somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 per month per plane with the IFE." "Wait," I yelled, "How do you do that?"

IFExpress: New Kid On The IFE Block: Thompson Aerospace


Buried in the back of building 5 at AIX, we found Thompson Aerospace, headed by machine-gun speaking Mark Thompson, we were greeted with a fusillade of facts and IFE prognostication: "We are not an IFE manufacturer," he said, "We are a 'focussed solution' company, founded and funded by aerospace professionals." And yes, their business card says it all - "Specializing in Improving Airline Economics." This is a great value proposition for airlines because his focus is airline profit. IFE, according to Thompson, is just another road to profitability and that credo seems to have leaked into every technical decision in the development of their system. For starters, the Thompson system is based on an Ethernet 100 Base-T backbone. Each IFE installed seat (including cabling) is only a 3.3 pound addition to the aircraft weight and uses some 10 watts. Initially targeted for single-aisle aircraft, the Ethernet seat boxes are designed for sidewall installation and can serve up to 10 passengers (sounds like twin-aisle capability to us).

The design of the box has been optimized by Thompson and, noted Mark," ...the cabling has been reduced by 2/3, as well as, the cost of the cabling." It looks to us like Thompson has taken an optimization razor to the whole system and what results is a very airline/aircraft friendly design. We made the mistake of calling the system an Ethernet but we were quickly corrected by Mark. "We have developed a Local Area Network on an aircraft". It seems that the focus is on the aircraft and Thompson is aiming for an optimization of the electronics functions in an effort to deliver a lower cost solution for airlines that has great money making potential. For a better understanding of their value proposition, check out the comparison tool on their website.

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