[Avionics Today March 26, 2014] National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is currently using live flight trials between Bristol and Edinburgh to research the use of data communications between Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) and pilots at lower altitudes, the Air Traffic (AT) services provider for the U.K. said.
Datalink is the U.K.'s version of the Data Comm Air Traffic Management (ATM) modernization in the U.S. According to NATS, Datalink is currently mandated in European airspace above 28,500 feet, and now the U.K. is looking at providing the same benefits at flight levels as low as 10,000 feet.
In addition to the flight trials between Bristol and Edinburgh, NATS is also conducting them between Bristol and Rome Fiumicino as well as four routes between Scotland and Scandinavia. Thus far, NATS has landed more than 10 successful trial flights and will continue to run trials through June. Also participating is the Italian air navigation service provider ENAV, airlines including Air France, EasyJet and SAS, and industry leaders Selex-SI, SITA, Airbus ProSky and Boeing.
The trials are the culmination of the ATC Full Datalink Project (AFD) under the Demonstrating SESAR: Integrated Flight Trials program. Datalink was first deployed in Europe in November 2012, as a concept to replace voice communications at lower altitudes.
Under the SESAR AT modernization program, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) will look to deploy Datalink throughout Europe.
NATS has already rolled out Datalink at the Swanwick and Prestwick centers, according to John Haywood, project manager for the AFD flight demonstrations.
“NATS has already significantly invested in Datalink, rolling out the technology at our two centers, Swanwick and Prestwick, in August last year," said Haywood.
"However, this trial is pushing the boundaries of Datalink usage and if successful will allow for the benefits of Datalink to be realized in busy areas of airspace at far lower altitudes, positively impacting upon safety and efficiency," Haywood added.