Panel beating – on board with Kymeta’s antenna
BY TIM THOMAS
15 OCT 2017
After months of trials, what do the captains of Maltese Falcon and White Rose think of Kymeta’s antenna tech?
Perched 170ft above the deck of Maltese Falcon, sitting on the yard at the top of the foremast, I must admit that the view across the bay to Monaco was nothing less than spectacular. The coming and going of traffic to the port from the fleet of superyachts swinging to their anchors was a hint of the frenetic activity that would begin the following day as the 2017 Monaco Yacht Show opened its gates to the industry and the public.
The frenetic activity was not just going to be limited to the show area itself however, and the view down to Maltese Falcon’s deck perhaps suggested why. Forward I could see the top of the radar and satellite dome mast that sits so prominently at Maltese Falcon’s bow; but amidships, either side of the centre mast, I could just make out four small octagonal plates on the coachroof. These were the Kymeta flat panel antennas that it had been revealed Maltese Falcon had been trialling in real-world conditions since May. It was a philosophically revealing view – forward, the past; and back aft, the future. The fact that the VIP tours of both Maltese Falcon and motor yacht White Rose of Drachs – the other test bed for the flat panels – were booked solid for the entirety of the show suggested that the buzz around this metamaterials tech was reaching fever pitch.
In many ways such a buzz was understandable. Much talked about over the last four years, Kymeta’s electronically steerable aperture solution is finally on the brink of commercial availability, and the trials over the last five months were the proof Kymeta needed that it’s solution worked. This was my chance to get some one-on-one time not only with Håkan Olsson, VP Maritime at Kymeta, and group managing director of e3 Systems Roger Horner, but also the captains of both Maltese Falcon and White Rose of Drachs. So how had they found the panels in practice?
“From our side as a sailing yacht we encounter some factors that motor yachts don’t care about,” says Nikolaos Leontitsis, captain of Maltese Falcon, “such as wind resistance and weight, and with this solution we are solving these problems. Even when we were sailing, for sure the panels were from time to time blocked a certain percentage but it didn’t really affect the overall performance. It slowed down at some points, but it was still a lot faster than our traditional VSAT. Sometimes we were sailing at really hard angles with 15 degrees of heel, but it didn’t affect it – we have moving masts, we heel a lot maybe for days at a time, but it still works.”
It has been a similar story on White Rose, which chose to activate only one of its traditional VSAT links with the knowledge that the Kymeta panels were going to be added. And if the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, then the pudding appears to have been very well cooked. “Unless I get told otherwise,” says Andrew Schofield, captain of White Rose, “we’re going in the shipyard in January 2018 and one of the jobs will be to take the domes off.”
For Kymeta and e3 Systems, the trials have been a chance to test hardware and service provision in both the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
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