Zodiac Inflight Innovations at AIX was all smiles this year, and why not? Rod Farley’s team of Larry Girard and Harry Gray has chalked up some 26 new airlines for RAVE the past couple years by offering a product with one of the best screen image qualities we have ever seen on a seatback unit. We are sure price is also another feature and that makes airlines say “yes” to RAVE. The Zodiac Inflight Innovations Team has brought Mr. RAVE along for a few years now and they now have stand alone and integrated hardware such as those with the TriaGnoSys products like RAVE Wireless. But lets start at the beginning: firstly we should point out that RAVE comes in 3 flavors – RAVE CENTRIC (the seatback version), RAVE WIRELESS (the service for your portable entertainment device), and RAVE CELLULAR (the service for your phone). Secondly, and before we forget, RAVE came about as a business strategy – Reliable, Affordable, and Very Easy. From what we have heard from airlines, the products are working in aircraft “as advertised.”

Harry Gray told us that, “Our customers are consistently very happy with RAVE CENTRIC. Not only are we signing up more new airline customers, but existing customers want to extend our IFEC solutions across their fleets.”

Let’s look at all three in a little more detail. The data sheets from the Zodiac Inflight Innovations folks state: “Now airlines can choose from multiple features and capabilities to keep their passengers entertained and engaged during flight. Our product line provides our customers with a modular concept that can be tailored to each airlines needs, making it “very easy” for them to pick and choose which features are most important to them and their passengers.” The 3 product lines can be used on aircraft singularly or in a “mix & match” approach. This makes the IFEC solution flexible and allows for a solution on an airline with one-hour flights to differ from an International flight that could include all three.

RAVE CENTRIC is the headliner that provides inseat/overhead entertainment screens all connected via Ethernet throughout the cabin. This includes crew panel screens, which are interchangeable with the passenger screens of the same size. The entertainment content can be updated daily via an SD Card or USB drive by the crew while the built-in cell modem handles airline operational data offloads from the IFE system. Theatrical content loads are delivered to each seat via their content loader (System Control Unit) and can take place on the ground and even in the background during flight. Both Airbus and Boeing aircraft are flying with RAVE CENTRIC and airlines like the simple addition of one LRU in each seat for both installation ease and testing and replacement ease. Reliability is enhanced in the stand-alone in-seat units by the use of solid state memory and this is one of the reasons over 100 planes now are flying with this system and is a past Crystal Cabin Award winner. And yes, RAVE is now line fit offerable as well.

Two things stood out in the seatback system for us: USB charging available in each of the seatback displays and the INCREDIBLE quality of the screen displays. The in-seat HD displays, available in 17”, 15”, 12” and 9”, all have SD memory cards. Larry Girard told IFExpess, “We built in new intuitive screen controls that are more “swipe driven” and with our slide-up panel, pull down menus, and slide button controls, we mimic mainstream devices, which is one of our goals.” Aside from the new intuitive touch screen interface there’s a wireless option that we will talk about later.

The System Control Unit has a lot going for it, just look at some of the features:

  1. A single major LRU in the head-end
  2. Under 50 watts and 3.5kg weight
  3. 12 Terabyte capacity with built-in “load & 
go” content loading, even during flight
  4. Wireless data transfers at the gate
  5. Broadcast Moving Map (option)
  6. Supports all aircraft standard interfaces for 
PSS, PA, VA, Connecting Gate, etc.
  7. Qualified to DO-160 requirements

Let’s now move on to RAVE WIRELESS, available today. An airline that features short / medium haul operations or has customers who demand personal device entertainment will find RAVE WIRELESS a solution looking for users. This would be a good place to mention that this RAVE solution has a bit of development history combined in its background, as TriaGnoSys brought a lot of connectivity history to the party when Zodiac Aerospace purchased the company in September 2013. From an operational point of view, no app is required so users don’t have to download any application before the flight – Wi-Fi is streamed via an open network. This can also be pass-code protected for a pay per access or pay per view option. As a browser based connectivity device, the system allows any PED with Safari, Chrome, Opera, Firefox, (and so on) to be up and running with one URL entry. We asked about equipment requirements for a 200-passenger plane and 3 WAPS will fill the bill. The system shuts down automatically when wheels touch the ground. We understand that RAVE WIRELESS has a couple customers already and a fleet of aircraft goes into service this month.

RAVE CENTRIC and RAVE WIRELESS can also work together to enable passengers to use dual screens. Most obviously, they can have both a film showing on one screen and the Internet – social media, for example – running on the other. But what Zodiac Inflight Innovations has done in addition is to incorporate pairing, so both screens work together. That means passengers can swipe content from one screen to the other, and back again. It is just like having two linked screens on your desk.

Lastly we should mention a bit about RAVE CELLULAR, the international voice, SMS, and Data services provided through connectivity service providers, with billing, as with international roaming, coming though each passenger’s home mobile network operator. From a hardware perspective:

  1. CCU (Communication Control Unit) hardware is integrated with RAVE Cellular, RAVE Broadband, and RAVE Wireless in one cost effective LRU weighing approximately 5kg
  2. Antenna – leaky line or dipole antennas are required in-plane
  3. NCU (Network Control Unit) creates a usable airborne environment for GSM voice and data services
  4. CCP (Cabin Crew Panel) provides cabin crew and maintenance control functions as well as system and BIT status

This solution pretty much fits the bill for any airline in the world wishing IFE and/or connectivity and the Zodiac Inflight Innovations RAVE family boasts enough aircraft installations to call them one of the IFE contenders in the race to fill space with IFEC!