[Avionics Today 11-9-2015] Harris Corp. is focused on achieving specific communications, surveillance and navigation related milestones over the next year as a major partner for several aspects of the FAA's NextGen airspace modernization program. Avionics Magazine caught up with Harris’ President of Mission Networks Ed Sayadian to discuss the company's NextGen plans, goals and milestones over the next year under the new Harris, which completed its $4.6 billion acquisition of Exelis earlier this year.
Currently, Harris' direct involvement with NextGen includes expanding the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out ground network that it implemented in 2014, supporting the expansion of the initial Departure Clearance (DCL) phase of the Data Comm program to 53 airports by the end of 2016, testing out the new National Airspace System (NAS) voice switch, facilitating the Common Support Services (CSS) weather data processing capability for all NAS operations and more.
"ADS-B is complete and we are extending and adding ground stations and extending coverage," Sayadian told Avionics Magazine. "On the NAS voice switch, the big milestone that we are striving for in 2016 is the start of the factory acceptance test. That will be the full laboratory test out of all the switch capabilities."
The Harris executive said the team is also currently focused on adding more nodes throughout the NAS to facilitate more data sharing under the NextGen System Wide Information Management (SWIM) architecture, as well as CSS Weather.
"Right now there are 16 nodes. We will be looking at adding another three nodes in 2016," he said. "For CSS Weather, that program is just kicking off, the next milestone we are going to be doing is a preliminary design review in January 2016."
Harris was awarded the eight-year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) CSS contract to design and implement a system that will disseminate real-time, comprehensive weather pictures to all aviation users across the NAS. CSS weather makes available both National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FAA NextGen Weather Processor (NWP) products for integration into air traffic decision support tools. The FAA’s vision is for these weather products to be provided via a set of common Web services for weather, using internationally recognized data access and data format standards.
According to Sayadian, the next generation of weather sharing has essentially been defined by the FAA as the NWP to provide NAS-wide processing of weather data and the other, CSS, being responsible for collecting all the various weather feeds including the Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) and national weather service feeds. It has been configured to store these feeds in a common database and distribute that data to various end-user systems and weather processing devices. Harris is also considering the possibility of providing a capability to add some of that weather data to the Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B) service aspect of the ADS-B network.
"One of the things we’re exploring for future benefit is coupling SWIM and CSS-Wx feeds with the FIS-B service that can be uplinked to the pilot," said Sayadian. “However, airlines do have the ability to get weather outside the FAA right now; that will continue. Commercial aircraft have their own on aircraft weather sensor devices that will track local weather conditions around the aircraft itself. GA can get weather through various commercial services. This would, of course, be another way of providing primarily GA pilot with weather and aeronautical information."
On ADS-B, Sayadian said the company is focused on surveillance areas where coverage can provide enhanced benefits for airspace users.
"Those areas where expanded surveillance coverage can provide enhanced value, the Gulf of Mexico, up in Alaska, the Colorado ski resort area, and potentially in the future, the Caribbean. Ensuring that we continue to find and exploit those opportunity areas for improved surveillance coverage, we can get more efficiency in the overall system," he said.
Finally, Sayadian also gave an update on the FAA's evaluation of Aireon's space-based ADS-B system, as the agency is currently considering whether or not they will look to add this type of surveillance to its oceanic airspace.
"We are a sub-contractor to Aireon and Harris is providing a couple things: we’re building the satellite ADS-B payloads including the ADS-B radio receiver that will go on the satellite. We’re about halfway through the production run there. Additionally, we are under contract with Aireon to build and operate the ground system. That would involve leveraging a portion the ground software we built for FAA ADS-B system, and tailoring that to process the all the data that’s coming down from the satellites," said Sayadian. "The FAA is interested in possibly getting service from Aireon to provide ADS-B for their oceanic regions, and they are in the evaluation process right now to see if they can close the business case and use that to provide benefits for operators."