Spring 2023

dBD Communications eyes lucrative US market

dBD Communications eyes lucrative US market

Wireless ramp communication systems provider dBD Communications has made great strides in cracking the large North American market for such technology… and is hoping to build on the success achieved so far

The Covid pandemic hit apron system suppliers of all sorts hard, and Basildon, Essex, UK-headquartered dBD Communications did not escape the ramifications of the crisis. Government financial support helped as the aviation-related parts of its business went ‘flat’, recalls managing director David O’Connell and, during those lean years, the company was tided over by its strong presence in the rail market, he informs.

But demand for airfield ramp wireless communication systems is now once again picking up and, furthermore, dBD Communications is satisfying requirements for such systems across the Atlantic in the US – a relatively new market for the company.

Initial sales into that vast market began with the purchase of a number of dBD communications systems by PrimeFlight Aviation Services towards the end of 2021. PrimeFlight had been introduced to dBD technology through the latter’s provision of communications systems to Vestergaard for its de-icers.

That sale prompted O’Connell to look seriously into the potential for further deliveries into North America, and – within a couple of weeks of a visit to Dubai-headquartered aviation services provider dnata – a contract had been signed for supplying the handler with ramp communications technology to equip its New York JFK operation.

Other new customers signed up in the US have included Quantum Aviation Services based at Orlando, Florida, and Integrated Deicing Services (IDS).

As was the case for PrimeFlight, the dBD apron communications systems will support IDS’s de-icing teams and, in this regard, O’Connell declares: “We have proven ourselves in ramp de-icing operations. We understand the processes and technologies that are needed, whether for single-cab de-icer operations, or for supporting vehicle driver and de-icing operator communications, as well as supporting communications among all the vehicles involved in multi-unit de-icing operations.”

Furthermore, at the time of writing, discussions are in progress with airline JetBlue, as well as with dnata about potentially equipping all its 26 US stations with dBD wireless equipment. O’Connell has some innovative ideas about how dBD’s systems might be used to support dnata’s pushback and wing-walking operations right across its North American network, he says.
“So, our business is definitely on the up,” O’Connell enthuses.

Changing minds

Whatever the geographical market, there is stll work to be done to persuade potential customers of the value of wireless technology for ramp operations, O’Connell suggests. The benefits are many, not least in terms of safety and convenience for handlers and mitigation of the risk of highly expensive damage to GSE or aircraft caused by collisions, but some remain unconvinced, O’Connell says – especially those handlers who are happy to tread the same path around an aircraft on pushback that they have done for years, and are uninterested in the greater freedom that untethered headsets offer.

Moreover, says O’Connell, many of the limitations of previous-generation wireless headsets that might have put some potential buyers off have now been solved. For example, range has always been an issue. Some past apron communication systems had very limited range, while any obstacles to ‘line-of-sight’ communications can further impede the distance over which effective RF-based communications can take place.

But that is not a problem for dBD, O’Connell insists – its systems have at least 150m range, and they also do not drop out when a handler moves his head. Plus, the Bluetooth-based technology on which they rely is extremely robust and reliable, he adds.

Another important issue in the past has related to battery power longevity. Some systems might last little more than three or four hours without batteries needing to be recharged or replaced, but dBD Communications’ batteries are good for at least 24 hours, O’Connell promises.

Wireless systems are also more expensive than their wired counterparts – but the benefits more than outweigh that downside and, anyway, dBD Communications’ systems are more than affordable, he concludes.