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Israeli satellite communications (satcoms) specialist Orbit Communication Systems unveiled on 17 April 2024 what it describes as “groundbreaking” adaptive noise reduction (ANR) technology to facilitate clear cockpit communications.

Called Microphone ANR, the technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to negate the challenges of severe environmental noise encountered during flight, such as helicopter rotor and engine noises, that can disrupt communication intelligibility, potentially leading to safety risks and operational inefficiencies during an airborne mission.

The Microphone ANR system employs an adaptive spectral subtraction algorithm that uses AI to sense and learn background noise coming through the pilot’s microphone. It then estimates noise levels and removes unwanted sounds using digital signal processing (DSP), enhancing radio and intercom transmissions for all crew members. This enhancement leads to a significant improvement in communication clarity and allows for full concentration on the mission without distractions caused by background noise.

“Orbit’s secure AI technology is fully adaptable to a wide variety of noise types, including unique systems, with a rapid assimilation process. Reducing unwanted noise in radio transmissions while the pilot speaks results in crystal-clear radio and intercom communication for all mission teams, including other pilots, ground forces and ground control,” Orbit stated in a company press release. “This technology proves exceptionally effective, ensuring intelligible communication even when the noise level is 400% or more compared to the speech signal level, a testament to its capability to overcome severe environmental noise conditions.”

Elaborating on the potential impact of the ANR audio management system (AMS) on aviation safety and operational effectiveness, Orbit CEO Daniel Eschar was quoted as saying in company press release, “Orbit’s AMS solutions are installed on fighters, rotary-wing [aircraft], trainers, large mission [aircraft] and transport aircraft globally. Cockpit environmental noise in these platforms is significant and creates substantial disturbances affecting cockpit communication. We are proud of our advanced technological development integrating AI and machine learning, ensuring clear and continuous communication for mission success.”

The audio track of a cockpit conversation, showing (from half way through) the effects of Orbit’s AI-enabled Microphone ANR system in reducing background noise. (Image: Orbit)