During the WATMC event, ATM Magazine spoke with Marius Münstermann, Vice President Air Traffic Control, Rohde & Schwarz about their new strategy to integrate testing and measurement functionality in the same business unit as air traffic control solutions.

These aren’t the only two categories of products in the new strategic unit. 5G/6G testing and spectrum management is now combined with critical infrastructure and networks to support bandwidth management and monitoring and measure the quality of connections. There will also be optimised test devices that can be used related to drones.

5G plus security use cases can widen the opportunities across the aviation ecosystem to include airports.  Critical infrastructure is defined to include not only aviation, but maritime from the harbour perspective and search and rescue activities.  In the harbour – vessel traffic management including voice communication solutions (VCS) similar to aviation. Search and rescue activities along the coastline use the mobile infrastructure. During the ILA Berlin event, the company launched a red/black VCS for military applications. 

Ultimately, you will have multi-link solutions that need to support 5G, cloud infrastructure, LDACS, satellite and VHF. It will be necessary to determine the link with the best quality and bandwidth for use by specific situations. This combined approach will help to make this a reality.  Connectivity to aircraft is something that will still need to some time to resolve.

LDACS was also a topic highlighted during the event. Today we have multiple low data rate links available which aren’t capable to support the data created by modern aircraft. This data needs to be shared, which means there needs to be infrastructure to support high data rates to/from the cockpit. Satellite is one option, but LDACS is another that could be used to provide relief to existing VHF networks. The first step will likely include both of these technologies – LDACS over land and satellite over the ocean. LDACS works with an antennae on the aircraft and base stations for transmission of the data. With regards to satellite the question may arise as to who is the satellite provider. Is it OK with our industry if there is only one provider or do there need to be options? Something still to be determined.

LDACS can also provide location information as an alternative to GPS. Test flights are taking place in partnership with DLR in Europe to show the capabilities. There is also a project between DLR and DFS looking at smaller form factors for avionics and ground infrastructure. This will run through 2024. There is an expectation that there will be LDACS deployment in Europe in 2025, although there is still work to do in trials to finalise the form factor and functionality and of course the certification process with SESAR, ICAO and EUROCAE.

The industry needs a pure IP solution in order to support sustainability in the future. Today an ATCO has to continually change frequencies as a flight follows it’s end-to-end routing. But for LDACS to really take off and have an impact on sustainability it needs a global agreement, not only deployment in Europe.

The rate of change is accelerating in our industry with new technologies coming on board at pace. With a shortage of ATCOs, technology is another way to attract younger workers to this industry. LDACS is only one example of a step forward we can take. There will certainly be many more steps in this direction in the near future.