Air Traffic Management http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net STRATEGY, TECHNOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT FOR THE WORLD'S MOST GLOBAL INDUSTRY Fri, 28 Nov 2014 15:21:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Europe satisfied with drone privacy safeguards http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/europe-satisfied-with-drone-privacy-safeguards/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/europe-satisfied-with-drone-privacy-safeguards/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 15:11:01 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27129 More ››]]>

A Brussels probe into the social impact of widespread drone use is satisfied that today’s rules governing privacy, data protection and ethics is sufficiently robust to safeguard the public.

The European Commission commissioned two studies addressing key social impacts in the use of drones by members of the public.

Part of a European strategy to support the development of the European market for civil drones (or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – RPAS), the first study on privacy, data protection and ethical risks in civil RPAS operations found that despite the current European and member state regulatory frameworks’ neutral aproach towards technology they are largely adequate to address the privacy, data protection and ethical impacts of RPAS.

Rather, it points out that the problem lies in educating the RPAS industry about its obligations and enforcing the regulatory mechanisms that are in place.

The report recommends the development of a privacy impact assessment framework for RPAS and awareness-raising activities targeted at the RPAS industry that clarify privacy and data protection requirements, as well as privacy-by-design features and practices.

It highlights the need for industry and data protection authorities (DPAs) to develop national or cross-national information resources enabling citizens to identify the missions and operators associated with individual RPAS.

The report calls for a closer collaboration between civil aviation authorities and DPAs to work together to ensure that data protection safeguards have been conducted, when they deliver flight permits.

The second study  on third-Party liability and insurance requirements investigated the current regulatory framework and insurance market, in order to assess whether they could ensure effective compensation of victims in case of an accident.

It concludes that there is no immediate need to adapt national liability regimes or the EU insurance regulation applying to professional use of RPAS.  However, it identified a need to raise awareness about existing regulations and support the development of an appropriate insurance offer.

Read More:
Existing drone tech poses lethal risk: EASA
FAA can ban drones flown recklessly: NTSB
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Key safety challenges on conference agenda http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/key-safety-challenges-on-conference-agenda/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/key-safety-challenges-on-conference-agenda/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:17:19 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27125 More ››]]> Flightglobal will be running its annual ‘Safety in Air Traffic Control’ conference in London on 11– 12 December which will tackle key challenges facing the industry and discuss ways of harmonising safety standards on a global scale.

Those involved in leading safety in the air traffic management industry need to keep on top of these changes and develop strategies in order to ensure the correct training and processes are implemented.

Critical debate and discussion, case studies and best practice will be showcased at this event. Among the topics to be discussed include:

·         What are the real risks of remote towers?

·         What dangers do remotely piloted aircraft systems present?

·         Should safety and security be combined?

·         How can we share ATM incident information – and learn from it?

There will also be an update on Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) deployment and how ‘common projects’ are supporting operational readiness in addition to a discussion on the far-reaching effects on international co-ordination to meet interoperability standards.

Speakers include Neil May, head of human factors with UK service provider NATS who will discuss the importance of excellent human performance in air traffic control, what needs to be considered to achieve excellent human performance, how human factors can help and the use of human performance and human factors as part of a safety management system.

Johan Landin from Saab Technologies will outline the remote tower system whichi recently won certification approval from Swedish regulatory authorities. He will discuss how to provide tower ATC operations from remote locations, approving the application of remote tower technology and the tools needed to overcome concerns.

Visit the event website for more information.

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Aveillant pioneers win industry accolade http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/aveillant-pioneers-win-coveted-industry-accolade/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/aveillant-pioneers-win-coveted-industry-accolade/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:51:02 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27120 More ››]]> AvAveillant’s innovative holographic radar which is real-time, 3D spectrum efficient has won a UK engineering and technology (IET) award.

The innovation means that two key issues for aviation surveillance are eliminated; firstly the amount of spectrum required by surveillance radar can be reduced and it also solves the problem of wind turbine clutter on Air Traffic Control (ATC) primary surveillance radars.

Existing primary radar scan a narrow beam in a circle. This method observes other objects only briefly, and cannot distinguish between different kinds of objects, so turbines, for example, cannot be identified. Holographic Radar, however, operates quite differently – it observes the complete airspace, including turbines and aircraft, continuously and gathers information on all objects that are detected, identifies the targets, and removes them as appropriate.

It is the only solution that completely solves the airport’s problem of multiple wind farms, which will only grow into a bigger problem in the coming years.  Holographic Radar increases the probability of detection over a wind farm to 99%+. Furthermore, a single Holographic Radar can support multiple primary surveillance adars (PSRs) in different airport locations.

Tim Quilter, Aveillant’s engineering director, said: “We were shortlisted amongst other great institutions such as NATS, University College London, LeddarTech, Universitat Politècnica de València and Xidian University. This is recognition of a UK company supporting the aviation and renewable industries. With products ranging from deployable units to 40-mile regional surveillance solutions, designed and built to achieve current regulatory requirements, our 3D Holographic Radar is future-proofed to support upcoming developments.”

The UK’s IET is one of the largest engineering membership organisations in the world and is supported by the department for British Innovation and Skills.

* Aveillant is further strengthening its board with the appointment of Sir Colin Terry  as non-executive director.  A chartered engineer with extensive civil aerospace, military and industrial experience, Sir Colin brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the business as it looks to further the commercial deployment of its air surveillance 3D Holographic Radar.

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New runway tech at Newcastle International http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/new-runway-tech-at-newcastle-international/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/new-runway-tech-at-newcastle-international/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 17:13:54 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27104 More ››]]> Newcastle International Airport is the first airport in the UK to achieve Category III status for the use of forward scatter meter runway visual range equipment.

Airport landing equipment is ranked dependent on the level of visibility it can operate in – from category I through to III.

Until now, forward scatter meters – a piece of technology that measures runway visibility – have been approved only for use in supporting Category I operations. However, following a successful trial early this year, Newcastle Airport and air traffic engineers at NATS have been able to prove that the technology can also provide the level of accuracy required for more demanding Category III operations.

The breakthrough will radically reduce the costs to airports of this vital piece of runway technology, replacing the need for the more expensive equipment traditionally needed for Category III operations.

Richard Knight, operations director at Newcastle International airport, said: “Here at Newcastle Airport we operate in a range of weather conditions and investing in equipment which allows us to continually offer a high level of service to our passengers is a real priority for us.

“This exciting new technology provides a key enabler for take-off and landings in poor weather with our Category III ILS status and provides a reliable, low maintenance solution to ensure availability when needed. We’re delighted to be the first airport in the UK to use this type of technology, the result for our passengers and airline partners is that we are able to operate whatever the weather.”

Newcastle International connects to 80 destinations directly and provides customers with access via a wider global network through New York, London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dublin, Copenhagen and Dubai. The Airport recently announced a New York service with United Airlines to commence in 2015. In 2013 and 2014 Which? readers voted Newcastle the best large airport in the UK.

NATS is also working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and technology supplier AGI, to develop a new and more robust method for determining the true visibility available to pilots of arriving aircraft. This could in turn help reduce the length of time that Low Visibility Procedures would need to be in force.

Iain Harris, NATS engineering services director, said: “We know that the impact of low visibility operations are a key challenge for many airports in the UK and as such we are delighted to be involved in what is a first for the UK aviation industry and in something that could be hugely beneficial.”

“It’s also great to be working closely with Newcastle Airport again to jointly develop innovative solutions to support their business into the future.”

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WSI predictive analytics to minimise disruption http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/wsi-predictive-analytics-help-minimise-disruption/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/wsi-predictive-analytics-help-minimise-disruption/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:13:31 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27021 More ››]]> WSI Corporation has enhanced its Fusion flight operations platform with some new airport and flight monitoring features in its Predictive Analytics Package.

These provide a proactive and comprehensive snapshot of current conditions, allowing aircraft operators to stay ahead of potentially disruptive air-traffic restrictions.

As part of Fusion’s Predictive Analytics Package, the Airport Congestion Index is a unique data-driven predictive algorithm. Operations personnel will now have actionable insight during the flight-planning process for airports affected by enroute delays and other traffic-flow management initiatives.

The Index conveys information such as predicted taxi delays and deicing impacts. By providing early insight, airlines can determine when costly increases in fuel consumption, crew time or deicing fluid may be required – creating opportunities to control costs and optimise efficiency.

Launching the Predictive Analytics Package, WSI builds on its weather forecasting expertise, translating disruptive weather and airspace events into integrated operational impact metrics.

This product release is also the formal launch of WSI’s Data Science Group that will grow the capability and reach of WSI’s aviation product line into more effective airline operations tools.

“The addition of these predictive capabilities are clear examples of our commitment to innovation and customer-driven enhancements to improve safety, efficiency and performance,” said Mark D. Miller, SVP and general manager, aviation solutions at WSI Corporation.

In addition to the Predictive Analytics Package, the latest version of Fusion includes additional features based on high-value user feedback, including:

  • Pilot Report (PIREP) entry capability to submit, share, and collaborate with other WSI Fusion and Pilotbrief users, to promote operational safety and awareness of significant turbulence and icing encounters.
  • Daily Temperature Forecast Chart has been added for a quick, streamlined view of critical temperatures enabling aircraft performance planning and early insight into potential restrictions that may limit the capacity of the aircraft at departure.
  • Flight Position Data Source Selection allows global operators to control which flight position data feeds are visible at any given time in order to give preferential precedence.
  • Organised Track Structure (OTS) data has been expanded to include Australian and flex track extensions to North Atlantic (NAT) and Pacific (PACOT) overlays, clearly depicting required routing in key global air traffic corridors.

 

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Detroit improves airfield ops with Exelis http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/detroit-improves-airfield-ops-with-exelis/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/detroit-improves-airfield-ops-with-exelis/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:07:03 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27029 More ››]]> Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) has selected Exelis to deploy a comprehensive package of airport situational awareness, decision-support and operations management solutions.

Exelis will deliver its Symphony suite of integrated applications to DTW. Symphony enables Air Navigation Service Providers, airports and airlines to proactively manage operations, enhancing overall safety, collaboration and efficiency.

Exelis will provide Vehicle Movement Area Transponders (VMAT) for airport ground vehicle surveillance, and Symphony MobileVue for displaying aircraft and ground vehicle tracking data on portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. DTW will also use Symphony OpsVue for access to live gate-to-gate flight status information.

“As one of North America’s busiest hubs, having accurate and timely information at our fingertips about aircraft and vehicle location is important to safely managing airfield operations,” said Thomas Naughton, CEO of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

“Equipping our vehicles with VMAT and utilizing the Symphony surveillance solutions will provide airport operations staff, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers and vehicle operators with a common airfield operating picture at all times. Access to this information will improve collaboration and help ensure the safety of airfield personnel, passengers and crew during regular and irregular operations.”

“The deployment of the Symphony suite will provide DTW with an airfield operations management system on a single Web-based platform,” said Ted Carniol, general manager of commercial aviation solutions for Exelis. “Our data and solutions will deliver to DTW a critical network of information without the difficulty and investment of using multiple, disparate systems.”

As the prime contractor for the FAA’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) programme, Exelis has developed a fused version of FAA flight track data. This data combines all available FAA radar, multilateration and ADS-B surveillance sources, FAA host flight plan and third party information for the most complete, accurate and timely view of the National Airspace System.

The Exelis VMAT devices became available in November 2012 when the FAA certified them as fully compliant with the stringent requirements of its Advisory Circular 150/5220-26. This certification ensures that the devices are properly installed and configured in airport vehicles, properly maintained, and compliant with FAA standards.

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PASSUR, INFORM to work on turn solutions http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/passur-inform-to-work-on-turn-solutions/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/passur-inform-to-work-on-turn-solutions/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:56:06 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27019 More ››]]> PASSUR Aerospace and INFORM plan to integrate their existing solutions for airline and airport turn management and hub control into a new offering.

The companies have begun to connect their software and data for a launch project with a mutual airline customer, one of the largest in the world. The combined solution will deliver greater predictability, reliability, and schedule integrity, with fewer delays and disruptions for airlines and airports.

PASSUR’s flight, airspace, and airport efficiency solutions combined with INFORM’s hub control and turn-management platform will enhance the accuracy of important metrics and milestones in a flight’s transition from arrival to departure.

The PASSUR solutions include PASSUR’s Estimated-Time-of-Arrival (ETA) predictions; en-route and terminal airspace constraint predictions; Air Traffic Management (ATM) key performance indicator alerts; and real-time surface surveillance and gate conflict alerting.

The INFORM solutions include turn monitoring, prediction of real and potential bottlenecks in above- and below-wing ground operations, optimized deployment and allocation of mobile and static resources, and a suite of equipment localization and mobility options.

The new integrated product will help airlines and airports successfully minimize the short time intervals between arriving and departing aircraft. In addition, the product will help forecast potential ground delays, prevent gate conflicts, out-of-position ground crews, and unnecessary gate changes, including other last minute disruptions that can interfere with a smoothly choreographed arrival-departure sequence.

We are looking forward to working with PASSUR in leveraging the proven product portfolios of both of our organizations to deliver a unique collaborative solution that will help increase hub efficiency and reduce operating costs,” said Thomas Schmidt, INFORM/s Aviation Director.

“The market has been demanding accurate, affordable turn management solutions and we’re pleased to be working with INFORM GmbH, with their strong global reputation, as part of our continuing program to reduce the cost of airline operations and improve the customer experience,” said Jim Barry, president and CEO of PASSUR Aerospace.

 

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Inmarsat, ESA sign Iris Precursor partnership http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/inmarsat-esa-sign-iris-precursor-partnership/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/inmarsat-esa-sign-iris-precursor-partnership/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 23:03:17 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27087 More ››]]> Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband Safety service is to play an integral part in the future European air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure.

Inmarsat has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Iris Precursor partnership which will upgrade SwiftBroadband to meet the demanding standards set for ground-based VHF data links.

This will enable Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) flight management concepts, where flight plans can be continually updated during flight to maintain an optimal trajectory to destination. These trajectory management concepts allow air traffic control to offer better routings, sequence aircraft far in advance and maximise airport and airspace capacity.

The benefits of this for air operators include a reduction in flight time and airborne holding, and it also supports other concepts such as continuous descent operations resulting in less fuel burn, reduced delays and lower CO2 emissions.

The Iris Precursor partnership is the next step in developing SwiftBroadband Safety, which has recently begun flight trials for oceanic operational approvals. It is being developed in coordination with a dedicated project in the frame of the SESAR programme, P15.02.05 (also named “Iris Precursor”) that will lead to pre-operational flight trials during 2016.

The partnership results from a major funding commitment approved at ESA’s 2012 Ministerial Council, with the UK as the main contributor, under which SwiftBroadband will be upgraded to provide a satellite overlay to terrestrial VHF networks.

While the initial focus will be on Europe, the capabilities developed will open opportunities for deployment in North America, Asia Pacific and other regions, where the growth of air traffic is placing strain on ground-based VHF networks.

Inmarsat said it was the logical partner given its long history of being at the forefront of safety communications -  it supports aviation safety services to nearly 10,000 aircraft, delivering Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract (ADS-C) and Controller Pilot Data link Communications (CPDLC) FANS service on a worldwide basis.

“Today’s announcement cements our role in providing aviation safety services. We have been committed since the launch of Future Air Navigation Systems in the 1990s to support safety communications for the world’s airlines,” said Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat. “Our aim, and the purpose of this partnership, is to continue to provide airlines across the globe with improved safety services, aircraft routing, and environmental and cost efficiency benefits.”

Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s director of telecommunications and integrated applications, said: “Iris Precursor is a project within the framework of ESA’s Iris Programme, born in 2008 to provide a satellite system as part of a wider initiative driven by the European Commission for the modernisation of the air traffic management.

“It represents a first milestone of a fruitful collaboration in the long-term modernisation of air traffic management: a challenge that we can only do it if we join forces, ready to tackle step by step.”

Read More: Space Odyssey

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Inmarsat awards Iris security work to CGI http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/inmarsat-awards-iris-security-work-to-cgi/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/inmarsat-awards-iris-security-work-to-cgi/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:22:37 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27081 More ››]]> IT giant CGI has been awarded the contract by British satellite business Inmarsat to develop the safety and security of future ‘Iris Precursor’ data communications between the pilot and air traffic controllers within European airspace.

Inmarsat was awarded the Iris Precursor contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) and plans to enhance its SwiftBroadband service – already in wide use by airlines – with the extra reliability and protection required for safety critical air traffic management (ATM) operations.

CGI will be responsible for developing ground-based gateways that will enable the SwiftBroadband system to interface with the European ATM Network (EATMN) and incorporate security measures to protect the over-the-air communications link from cyber attack.

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “The Iris Precursor project is a key initiative that paves the way for our SwiftBroadband service to meet the European regulations and standards for datalink communications and play an integral role in the future of European air traffic services infrastructure.

“CGI’s role in developing, integrating and deploying the required ground network systems is a central component of the work and we selected the company based on its deep space industry experience, safety and security systems expertise, and proven delivery track record.”

Steve Smart, CGI vice president added: “This is a high profile project with the goal of improving air traffic management communications across Europe. We have a long history of developing secure and safety-critical software systems for the space industry and have the experienced team needed to successfully deliver this innovative project.”

Iris Precursor is not only being developed to support the needs of existing European ATM, but could provide the capacity and performance demanded by future applications planned through the Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) programme.

This will include the ability to update flight plans en-route and improve the sequencing of aircraft into busy airports – providing major benefits in terms of airspace efficiency, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Modernisation on this scale demands a stepped approach, so Iris has been divided into two phases: ‘Iris Precursor’ for the short to medium term, which will evolve into the full Iris service, supporting the long-term objectives of SESAR.

The systems will undergo rigorous validation and verification tests to assure safety and security requirements are met, before entering initial flight trials in 2016.

Read More: Space Odyssey

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Space Odyssey http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/european-satellite-based-aircraft-data-communications/ http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/2014/11/european-satellite-based-aircraft-data-communications/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:05:16 +0000 http://www.airtrafficmanagement.net/?p=27061 More ››]]> Managing the forecast boom in air traffic safely while driving down costs is driving Europe to adopt satellite-based data exchange. Aimée Turner examines how Europe will launch its efforts here with a multi-mode commercial rather than a dedicated system.

When a chunk of space junk came hurtling close to the International Space Station some years back, the crew took shelter in their Soyuz return vehicle as a precaution. Although the object – a piece of an old Russian Cosmos communications satellite – passed safely by, the danger posed by orbital debris is quite real. It’s a problem that is only going to worsen with the number of satellites set quite literally…rocket.

Europeans charged with overhauling how air traffic control communicates have been faced with a similar dilemma – whether to send a new satellite complete with back-up into space or use hardware already up there.

A plan for satellite-based datalink communications has been an important part of air traffic management modernisation efforts since 2008 when their value was recognised in an early version of the European ATM Master Plan.

Why Satcoms? On busy days, more than 33,000 flights are controlled in European airspace, and the numbers are only set to go one way - up. By 2020, the number of yearly controlled flights is estimated to reach 17 million. But while flights have increased, the way air traffic is managed has not progressed as swiftly. Communications between pilots and air traffic controllers are still mostly passed by voice over VHF or HF radio, in use since the 1950s. While satellite communications have been extensively used for passenger communications, they are still not allowed as a primary means of communication for safety. What is fundamentally new with the concept of operations developed by SESAR is that it uses satellite communications as an integral part of the new European ATM system for safety communications, and in most phases of flights. Aircraft will be able to communicate while en route at cruising altitude, but also during take-off and landing, and while manoeuvering close to airports. This is fundamentally different from today’s use of satellite communications and was – until now – not guaranteed with existing technology.

WHY SATCOMS?
On busy days, more than 33,000 flights are controlled in European airspace, and the numbers are only set to go one way – up. By 2020, the number of yearly controlled flights is estimated to reach 17 million.
But while flights have increased, the way air traffic is managed has not progressed as swiftly. Communications between pilots and air traffic controllers are still mostly passed by voice over VHF or HF radio, in use since the 1950s.
While satellite communications have been extensively used for passenger communications, they are still not allowed as a primary means of communication for safety.
What is fundamentally new with the concept of operations developed by SESAR is that it uses satellite communications as an integral part of the new European ATM system for safety communications, and in most phases of flights.
Aircraft will be able to communicate while en route at cruising altitude, but also during take-off and landing, and while manoeuvering close to airports.
This is fundamentally different from today’s use of satellite communications and was – until now – not guaranteed with existing technology.

Drawn up by the technical architects of a future high performance system at SESAR – or the Single European Sky ATM Research programme – that master plan aimed for initial datalink capability in high-density continental areas by 2020.

Efforts to place satellite-based communications high on the agenda had actually started a year earlier with the launch by the European Space Agency (ESA) of the Iris programme to promote the adoption of satcoms within SESAR. Even at that early stage, the initiative garnered a healthy level of support.

Benefits

The benefits of such a system are many. Advanced air traffic management centres on full 4D trajectory operations which allow flights to be managed infinitely more efficiently while safety is maintained as a given.

But to achieve 4D operations, the way data is exchanged to and from the aircraft to ground needs to be radically improved. The development of more capacity and higher performance of air-to-ground links will be essential as is constant availability.

An advanced system as envisaged by SESAR would feature several fundamentals:

• a ground-based system using line-of-sight links between aircraft and ground stations and between aircraft, in continental airspace;

• a satellite-based system connecting aircraft and ground systems through a satellite infrastructure, complementing the ground-based segment in continental airspace and used as primary means of communication in oceanic and remote airspace;

• a dedicated airport system based on WiMax standards, which links aircraft and ground systems at the airport.

Nathalie Ricard was charged with leading the Iris programme for the ESA at its outset. She recalls how the agency quickly proved that satellite communications could meet all the requirements for full 4D trajectory operations despite the uniquely demanding specifications in terms of integrity of data and availability.

“The peculiarities of the programme are that the messages are generated by a large number of users at unpredictable times. Messages are also very short and very infrequent but have to go through with absolutely no degradation,” Ricard explains. “That is completely different from the more standard telecoms system where if you lose a pixel from a transmitted photograph, it doesn’t really matter.”

In 2008, ESA received the green light to proceed to the design phase with the support of the European Commission, the SESAR Joint Undertaking, Eurocontrol, the European space industry and the full gamut of aviation stakeholders. It soon realised it had to design something very specific so a whole raft of studies was launched to refine the various options.

Space3w“There were basically two ways of going about it. One was to start with a clean slate, design something purpose-built. The other way was to use something that already existed and that could be modified. We started our design studies looking at both: one adapting the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband system called THAUMUS which was not originally designed for safety but for passenger communications,” says Ricard.

The main difference between these two options centres on the eventual business model and system governance. On a technical level, the main question here was to examine to what extent would the Inmarsat system need modification to accommodate this very specific type of message and to what extent could the system infrastructure be relied upon in terms of service availability.

Ricard explains that the software running a commercial product is generally not developed with the highest quality in terms of availability and reliability: “If you develop something for safety it is a different kettle of fish. Any modifications would also have a cost implication so we looked at that too.”

Those studies took two years and in 2012, ESA finalised the design of the communications standard which essentially lays down the technical description of how data will be exchanged.

“That was a highly complex exercise because there were a lot of trade-offs. The key point when you’re designing a system such as this is that you have one satellite and thousands of aircraft so the way that they all share access is fundamental to the efficacy of your network. To do this there are several technical ways and we needed to determine the best fit, one which would optimise the system that would make sure it was as small and as cost efficient as possible.”

Study Space ANTARES: This Phase-B system design study involved 23 telecom and aerospace companies. It assumed that a purpose-built dedicated system is required for ATM communications. The study defined the specifications of the telecommunication system, developing a testbed, designing the infrastructure required and developing prototypes of aircraft terminals. THAUMAS: This study defined the modifications to Inmarsat SwiftBroadband that would be needed for new datalink services defined by SESAR. HERMES, OPERA and SIRIO: These three studies were carried out in parallel by industrial teams including communication service providers, satellite operators and air navigation service providers. Each study defined the satellite operation of the ANTARES system and analyses the business case for ATM safety communications via satellite.

STUDY SPACE
ANTARES This Phase-B system design study involved 23 telecom and aerospace companies. It assumed that a purpose-built dedicated system is required for ATM communications. The study defined the specifications of the telecommunication system, developing a testbed, designing the infrastructure required and developing prototypes of aircraft terminals.
THAUMAS This study defined the modifications to Inmarsat SwiftBroadband that would be needed for new datalink services defined by SESAR.
HERMES, OPERA and SIRIO These three studies were carried out in parallel by industrial teams including communication service providers, satellite operators and air navigation service providers. Each study defined the satellite operation of the ANTARES system and analyses the business case for ATM safety communications via satellite.

In fact, what has been designed for the clean-sheet option – termed ANTARES – was always destined eventually to be made public so that in any given corner of the world, the technology can be easily replicated, ensuring that its use would be global.

That gave ESA a pretty good idea of the technical requirements of both options – ANTARES and THAUMUS – which would fulfil the necessarily stringent performance criteria of ATM safety communications. Equally as important, the agency had to fulfil some tough business requirements of the eventual user – airlines.

What was required was a radical reduction of the overall ownership cost of the small, low drag aircraft terminals that may need to be fitted with an accompanying guarantee that there would be no equipment upgrades during the aircraft’s operational life of around 30 years.

What ESA ultimately opted to do was to initiate work with British satellite business Inmarsat on what was termed the ‘Iris Precursor’ project, which was accompanied by the launch of a complementary project led by Airbus through the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) public-private initiative.

The so-called ‘Iris Precursor’ is a satellite hosted communication service based on development of the existing Inmarsat Swift Broadband commercial communications solution. Its supporters claims its adoption has accelerated the development of high bandwidth satellite-based communication in support of initial 4D operations in Europe.

Deployment will indeed require new or at minimum upgraded equipment both on board the aircraft and on the ground in order to support the necessary connectivity for the trajectory management services being standardised globally.

Space2wWhile the Iris precursor programme can at least send the airline community a heartening message that progress in the development of advanced satellite-based communications is underway there are fewer guarantees that what will be one of the backbones of 4D operations will be affordable.

Iris had examined the cost of developing a clean-sheet geostationary satellite system to cover Europe and the North Atlantic from scratch and found that it could prove a lot cheaper than alternatives because it would be designed with a specific purpose in mind, not just something that would need to be patched up.

Not only that but the Iris proved that satellite communications did not necessarily have to be outrageously expensive. “It’s just not the case,” says Ricard. “We studied what would make [a clean sheet] system financially viable. One initial idea was to have a private sector partner who would invest in deploying the infrastructure and we worked out together with several satellite operators how one would recover the cost of doing that,” says Ricard. “We analysed the costs and each of the providers who went away and worked separately all came back with the same sorts of figures.”

Flight Tracking A Bonus? In a similar way to today’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), the communication equipment being developed under Iris Precursor is being designed to accommodate a location message in the protocol as well as its principal aim of providing a greater communication traffic load. This cost-effective location message approach came from work launched in response to the Air France AF447 tragedy under the SESAR SAT-OPTIMI study. Following the tragic loss of Flight 447 over the Atlantic in June 2009, the European Commission asked the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) to find solutions for the better tracking of aircraft in oceanic and remote low density airspace. The consortium responsible for the Oceanic Position Tracking Improvement & Monitoring (OPTIMI) project delivered their report to the SESAR Joint Undertaking with recommendations regarding technical, operational, economic and regulatory changes.   The recommendations were the basis for a second study in 2010 called, SAT-OPTIMI, which assessed short to-medium timeframe innovations in satellite systems development enabling global coverage. While black box or flight data recorder (FDR) data streaming is not associated with 4D operations, in principle any data that fits within the available communications bandwidth can be transmitted in an emergency if it is connected in the aircraft and the FDR has the data compression and output necessary - although that does not exist today.

FLIGHT TRACKING?
In a similar way to today’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), the communication equipment being developed under Iris Precursor is being designed to accommodate a location message in the protocol as well as its principal aim of providing a greater communication traffic load.
This cost-effective location message approach came from work launched in response to the Air France AF447 tragedy under the SESAR SAT-OPTIMI study.
Following the tragic loss of Flight 447 over the Atlantic in June 2009, the European Commission asked the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) to find solutions for the better tracking of aircraft in oceanic and remote low density airspace.
The consortium responsible for the Oceanic Position Tracking Improvement & Monitoring (OPTIMI) project delivered their report to the SESAR Joint Undertaking with recommendations regarding technical, operational, economic and regulatory changes.
The recommendations were the basis for a second study in 2010 called, SAT-OPTIMI, which assessed short to-medium timeframe innovations in satellite systems development enabling global coverage.
While black box or flight data recorder (FDR) data streaming is not associated with 4D operations, in principle any data that fits within the available communications bandwidth can be transmitted in an emergency if it is connected in the aircraft and the FDR has the data compression and output necessary – although that does not exist today.

The study found that the cost of building the infrastructure added to the operational cost would amount to between €1-7 with an average €3-4 deemed sufficient to cover all safety communication needs throughout the whole flight. “That’s very different from today’s extraordinarily expensive system, where usage is charged by what really are monopoly providers. Even today, the actual costs are really quite low.”

Iris’ focus here was anchored on building a business case where a bespoke safety communication service was refinanced by users on a per flight basis on an affordable basis. “Obviously,” Ricard points out. “If you end up having to add an extra significant financial burden on the airline to refinance the system it would never work. So we really placed an emphasis on both technical and financial aspects.”

Inmarsat meanwhile says its service should enter pre-operational flight trials in the 2016 timeframe and that the operational objective is to support initial 4D applications both within oceanic domains for sequenced arrivals and within the EU continental domain as a complement to VDL2.

While there is less clarity over cost now that the new satellite-based data link system capability will be a multi-mode commercial system to be deployed in the SESAR Step 3 timeframe – i.e. after 2020, the SESAR Joint Undertaking has taken pains to point out that a comprehensive business assessment of options has been conducted from a cost-benefit perspective.

SESAR JU has not written off a dedicated solution however but says that ANTARES really focussed on standards, safety and operator considerations that will support both a pre-cursor and a dedicated solution – which really depends on ESA budgetary largesse and cost-effectiveness of shorter term solutions.  “It is possible that ANTARES will become the later step but the exact nature and timing is unknown,” it says.

space4Read More: Inmarsat, ESA sign Iris Precursor partnership

 

 

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