-T / T / +T | Comment(s)

Monday, April 1, 2002

Industry Scan

GPS: Vulnerability Update
Last September the U.S. Transportation Department (DoT) released a study on the vulnerabilities of GPS and of the transportation system dependent upon it. Because the report was issued the day before Sept. 11, it aroused intense interest in the aftermath of that tragedy. Within less than 24 hours, the official complacency about relatively innocuous and infrequent cases of GPS interference escalated into an awareness of the serious threats posed to civil air navigation (see December 2001, page 27). Researchers at the DoT’s Volpe Center, the report’s author, also pointed out that critical future systems like Next-generaton air/ground Communications (Nexcom) radios and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) were designed to rely on GPS for timing synchronization. In October 2001, DoT held a public meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss the issues, promising another briefing in January 2002 to discuss the final plan.

But in early January, the follow-on outreach meeting was quietly canceled, reportedly by a DoT associate secretary who felt that further public discussion was "unnecessary." Attendees at the annual technical meeting of the Institute of Navigation (ION) in San Diego, later in January, had hoped that a DoT presentation scheduled for the meeting would address the action plan. However, the DoT spokesman could only say that a plan had been prepared in December but had not been approved by the agency. Apparently, it was felt that a press release would substitute for a meeting at this stage, but in late February that document still hadn’t appeared. The DoT plan is understood not as a "how-to" list but as a "to-do" list. It’s a roadmap of items to pursue, such as "backups need to be addressed," a source says.

James Carroll, the lead investigator and co-author of the Volpe report, made a presentation at the ION meeting. While not in a position to discuss the planning process, but certainly familiar with it, Carroll emphasized the critical nature of GPS, which underpins the nation's telecom and Internet, as well as navigation infrastructures. Loss of GPS would have much wider and more serious consequences than just the loss of a navigation service.

Progress with Loran-C development also was discussed at the ION meeting. Volpe has recommended that Loran modernization should continue, so that its potential can be analyzed and its possible role, determined. The Loran-C development program involves upgrading the transmitter network and developing and testing new receiver concepts. These receivers could consist of a single card–or, eventually, a single chip–within a GPS receiver or, alternatively, as one card within a multimode navigation receiver.

While observers in late February still awaited information on what the government intends to do about GPS vulnerability, one thing is clear: although GPS remains an exceptional source of navigation guidance and precise timing, pilots must be much more vigilant in GPS use, frequently cross-checking it against other onboard navigation aids. Because, after Sept. 11, the world of aviation has become suddenly very different and very unpredictable.

A380: Honeywell’s Growing Role
Honeywell has added secondary electric power distribution and integrated safety and surveillance to its existing Airbus A380 assignments, which include the super jumbo’s flight management system (FMS), electromechanical thrust reverser actuation system (E-TRAS) and the pneumatic system on the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine. The aerospace firm expects revenues from the secondary electric power distribution system (SEPDS) and the safety/surveillance system to top $710 million over 15 years, including sales of spares and other aftermarket activity. Honeywell’s SEPDS will use programmable solid state power control (SSPC) devices instead of electromechancal circuit breaker technology. The company plans to deliver first SEPDS flight hardware in January 2004 and first production equipment by August 2005.

The aircraft environment surveillance system (AESS) integrates the functions of Honeywell’s enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS), weather radar and traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), combined with a Mode S transponder capability. This consolidation is meant to improve situational awareness, surveillance displays and the coordination and prioritization of conflicting alerts, the company says. Visit www.honeywell.com.

FMS for Helicopters
Thales Avionics announced at the recent Heli-Expo show in Orlando, Fla., that it has introduced a new flight management system (FMS) that merges navigation and digital map functions. The new FMS was designed for medium- to heavy-class rotorcraft operated by both civil and military users.

The Thales system is interactive, which means pilots can control and present FMS functions on the display. The following can be displayed on a map background:

  • Navigation information, including waypoints, navaids and runways, provided by both a standard database and pilot-customized database;

  • Primary and alternative flight plans;

  • Helicopter flight path, with scale and zoom functions; and

  • Forbidden zones and obstacles.

The FMS also is modular and includes a multipurpose control and display unit, air data loader, digital map and digital map control panel modules. Visit www.thales-avionics.com.

MX20 Upgrade
UPS Aviation Technologies has upgraded its MX20 multifunction display (MFD) to show air traffic information from both the Goodrich Skywatch and Ryan TCAD products. The upgrade also can be installed in existing MX20 displays.

The Skywatch and TCAD, both traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS), show airborne traffic at ranges of up to 35 miles (56 km). The traffic targets can be overlaid on a moving map.

UPS Aviation Technologies has priced the new, 6-inch MX20 display at $8,495 and the hardware and software to upgrade MX20s in the field at $1,700. Visit www.upsat.com.

Weather Radar Sales
Qantas Airways and EVA Airways have chosen Rockwell Collins avionics for initial delivery in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Australia-based Qantas plans to equip 15 firm and 60 optional Boeing 737 aircraft with Collins’ new MultiScan weather radar, as an element of an integrated communication, navigation, safety and surveillance suite. EVA Airways, in Taiwan, also has selected MultiScan as part of an integrated Collins sensor package for 10 firm and two optional Airbus A330 aircraft.

The WXR-2100 MultiScan weather radar employs multiple tilt angles and data processing to decrease pilot workload and enhance weather hazard avoidance. The sensor automatically optimizes short- and long-range weather detection and, during takeoff and approach, warns of windshear conditions. Collins says future MultiScan products will measure storm top height and inform pilots of storm cell development. Visit www.rockwellcollins.com.

FLIR and Max-Viz
The development of enhanced vision systems for commercial and military aircraft got a boost in the newly formed strategic partnership of FLIR Systems Inc. and Max-Viz Inc., both of Portland, Ore. Enhanced vision systems (EVS) use infrared imagers to improve a pilot’s situational awareness so aircraft can more safely taxi, take off and land under poor visibility conditions. In addition to becoming a strategic investor in Max-Viz, FLIR will provide infrared imagers, manufacturing and engineering expertise, and design services for the development, manufacture and sale of the systems. Max-Viz develops proprietary EVS that use optical and infrared sensors, signal processing and cockpit displays to give pilots real-time images. The terms of the deal were not released. Visit www.max-viz.com and www.flir.com.

ADS-B Down Under
Airservices Australia (AsA) recently selected Honeywell to supply avionics and ground equipment in order to demonstrate commercial and general aviation use of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) in an area near Bundaberg, Queensland. (Last month, Avionics Magazine reported that Thales ATM will upgrade the Australian air traffic control system to receive, process and display ADS-B information.) Australia could benefit from ADS-B in areas where today there is limited or no air traffic surveillance coverage because of the cost of installing air traffic control (ATC) radars.

Honeywell’s airborne ADS-B suite includes Bendix/King KT 73 panel-mount Mode S transponders, KLN 94 GPS navigators and antennas. Sensis Corp. has been subcontracted to provide ground stations and ADS-B data processing. The AsA program will evaluate ATC use of ADS-B data and demonstrate the effectiveness of the 1090-MHz Mode S data link, but also will provide validation for the future use of ADS-B in more complex operations globally, Honeywell says. The Australian program will validate interoperability between ground station and airborne components during the second half of 2002.

The system will be deployed operationally in early 2003 for an initial period of three years. Visit www.honeywell.com and www.sensis.com.

Switches for Britain and China
The Frequentis voice communications switch (VCS) is being rolled out in three more facilities, bringing to nearly a dozen the number of airports and air traffic control (ATC) centers to be using the system in the UK and China. New UK buyers of the 3020X switch include Bristol International Airport and Humberside Airport. The Bristol system includes nine operator positions and the Humberside switch, five positions. Both systems include PP04 touch panels.

Meanwhile, the ATC center serving Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, China, ordered the 3020X system with 329 operator positions. The Chinese deal, which also includes an option for 60 additional operator positions in the country’s emergency system, is worth 10 million euros ($8.6 million). The Bristol contract also contains an expansion option. Visit www.frequentis.com.

Hello Columbus
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and European Space Agency (ESA) have selected Drake Electronics Ltd., in the UK, to develop and supply a voice communication system to serve a single air vehicle–the Columbus space module. The system will manage communications traffic between the Columbus module, which is being attached to the International Space Station, and the Columbus control center at Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, Germany. The Drake system will comprise a Gemini dual- redundant voice switch with 162 operator positions at the control center. It will connect with 10 remote operator positions in Europe and 70 more remote positions throughout the world. Integral to the communications design is its conferencing capability. It supports wideband voice (7.4 KHz) but can be enhanced to 22 KHz. Visit www.drake-uk.com.

Growing Use of MLS
Four microwave landing systems (MLS) by Thales ATM will be installed at London’s Heathrow airport under a contract from National Air Traffic Services (NATS). Announcement of the deal came as Thales was working through a second contract from the French civil aviation authority to build up to eight MLS at French airports. Its first system at Toulouse-Blagnac airport will be certified for Cat III landing. Seven other systems are due for installation at the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris. The systems are being collocated with existing instrument landing systems (ILS). The U.K. deal includes options for installation work across the country, with the systems similarly co-located with ILS. British Airways’ Airbus aircraft with onboard MLS avionics are scheduled to be among the first to use the equipment, which is expected to receive Cat III landing certification. Thales ATM also has MLS deals pending for other Asian and European airports. Visit www.thalesatm.com.

ARINC Updates G/TWS
Severe weather bulletins now are available on ARINC’s Graphic/Text Weather Service for pilots. The real-time local weather service allows the pilots of small aircraft to request text weather reports on any airport or region worldwide. ARINC’s original product consisted only of routine weather reports. The Annapolis, Md.-based company plans later in 2002 to add color weather radar maps based on NEXRAD doppler radar images from the Federal Aviation Administration. Visit www.arinc.com.

Radars for Brazil
Thales ATM won the competitive bid by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to supply 20 primary and secondary radars to the Brazilian air force and the Brazilian air traffic authority. The radars will fill out the country’s radar coverage, improving airport approach control. Over the next 36 months, Thales will deliver STAR 2000 primary surveillance units equipped with RSM 970, co-mounted Mode S monopulse secondary surveillance radars (MSSR). Thales late last year secured a similar $121-million deal to modernize 79 radars for Brazil’s air force. The STAR 2000 gear, configured with RSM 970S Mode S MSSR, also is being supplied by Thales to Air Navigation Services of Denmark under another new deal. That installation will take 10 months. Visit www.thalesatm.com.

Navy Buys CASS
Lockheed Martin is supplying 12 consolidated automated support systems (CASS) and developing additional CASS test program sets (TPS) for the U.S. Navy under contracts worth $84 million. The CASS contract modification, worth about $42.3 million, includes 16 RF (radio frequency) station kits and 12 new CASS test systems, as well as engineering and production support.

The TPS are being provided by the Bethesda, Md.-based company under a separate contract option worth $41.7 million. The gear will be used by the Navy to test aircraft avionic systems, replacing legacy testers in the fleet. Visit www.lockheedmartin.com/lmis.

UH-60’s Com Security
Wholly-owned Griffon Corp. subsidiary Telephonics won a $40-million contract for the U.S. Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter modernization program. Under the contract with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., the company will develop and supply to the project a configuration of its secure digital intercommunications system. The secure crew communication hardware will include full digital audio suitable for noisy in-flight conditions.

Separately, Telephonics signed a $35-million, four-year deal to supply Eurocopter with its maritime surveillance and search radar on-board units. Visit www.telephonics.com.

Pulse on Apache
A high-speed digital video transmission system is being developed for the U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, with help from Pulse Specialty Components, the Bristol, Pa.-based unit of Pulse.

Pulse Specialty is collaborating with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to upgrade the combat video imaging system used on the attack helicopter as part of the modernized Apache target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor (M-TADS/PNVS), or Arrowhead program.

Arrowhead uses digital video to enhance recording capability and facilitate still-frame video imagery transmissions to the ground or another aircraft. Pulse Specialty is supplying the Fibre Channel transceiver line interface modules for moving data blocks at fiber optic speeds ranging from 531 megabits/sec to nearly 1.1 gigabit/sec. The contract is with Team Apache Systems, a joint Lockheed Martin/Boeing group. Visit www.pulsespecialty.com.

Live chat by BoldChat