Flight-Control Technology Drives UAV Airspace Integration

A leading developer of navigation and flight-control systems for UAVs sees technology driving the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace ever closer. Within a year, in fact, Athena Technologies hopes to conduct a demonstration of multiple aircraft interacting with each other in an air-traffic management scenario.

"Technologically, there’s no reason why not," David Vos, co-founder and CEO of Athena Technologies, said of combining manned and unmanned aircraft. "There are cultural reasons — people typically don’t like to change very much. At the same time, the current operational rate of our systems in the unmanned world are showing they are extremely reliable, they match very close to the manned flight criticality numbers. The utility of unmanned systems for civil applications is becoming more and more obvious every day.... It’s just a matter of time and enough proven capability. There’s no question."

Athena Technologies, Warrenton, Va., produces the GuideStar line of integrated flight-control and navigation sensors, ranging in weight from 4 ounces to 6 pounds, for military UAVs, target drones, missiles and technology demonstrators. The company since 2004 has provided its GS-211e flight computer for the Shadow tactical unmanned aircraft system manufactured by AAI Corp., of Hunt Valley, Md., for the U.S. Army since 1999. This summer, AAI said Shadow had accumulated more than 200,000 flight hours worldwide, including 180,000 over Iraq and Afghanistan. The system has been selected by the U.S. Marine Corps., which is retiring its Pioneer UAV.

At the small end of the Athena product line, the 4-ounce Micro GuideStar combines solid-state accelerometers, rate gyros, magnetometer, air-data pressure sensors and WAAS-enabled GPS receiver in a package the size of a small cell phone to provide inertial navigation system (INS), GPS and Air Data Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS) functionality. Athena Technologies said Micro GuideStar, priced at $4,525 per unit for quantities of 100, was being used in some demonstration programs, which it was not at liberty to discuss.

A commercial product for manned aircraft, the Micro INS, was expected to obtain FAA certification this fall. Also weighing four ounces, the "all-in-one" INS/GPS/ADAHRS system feeds flight data to standby or other displays, and is aimed at experimental, GA and business aircraft. In July, Athena Technologies announced that systems integrator Stock Flight Systems of Farchach, Germany, had successfully flight-tested Micro INS in a Pitts S2B research aircraft.

All of the GuideStar products are capable of automated missions and in-flight mission readjustment, Vos said. In a test sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in April, Athena Technologies demonstrated the ability of an aircraft to recover from simulated battle damage and land safely, guided by the INS/GPS functionality of the company’s GS-111m flight computer. The objective of the test, which involved a subscale F/A-18 UAV, was to prove that a damaged aircraft can regain baseline performance through adaptive flight control.

Adaptive flight control promises to improve the mission reliability of UAVs in combat environments. But the capability also can help ensure UAVs fly reliably in commercial airspace. "Anything that’s up there flying, you need to be able to A, trust it, so it’s reliable, and B, [know that] if it’s going to come down, it comes down in a controlled, safe way to a predesignated location," Vos said. "It’s just part of the whole bigger mix. You need high levels of reliability in order to safely operate air vehicles and get them on the ground when anything goes wrong."

Asked what the company is doing by way of "see-and-avoid," considered a critical capability UAVs will need in commercial airspace, Vos said Athena Technologies is concentrating more on "automated traffic management" facilitated by Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) position reporting.

"See-and-avoid is just one small snippet of the way that traffic gets coordinated, and seeing isn’t necessarily the best way to do it," he said. "We’re much more tied into the ADS-B domain, where we have real-time algorithms that can run on distributed platforms, on every different airplane, and automatically configure traffic amongst vehicles, the whole concept being, everybody knows where everyone else is, and what their intent is and their vectors. Therefore, you can control the traffic and make sure it is safely routed."

The company has digital, frequency-hopping transceivers that suffice as ADS-B units and plug into the GuideStar flight computer, Vos said. The transceivers can be set for whatever communications protocol is decided for ADS-B.

"The short answer is, we don’t have a product we call an ADS-B unit, but when you integrate the Micro GuideStar with that digital transceiver, it is an ADS-B-capable solution," he said. "That for us is very exciting. It doesn’t have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a full ADS-B capability on board every airplane, especially the unmanned systems. With the FAA moving to the ADS-B ground infrastructure, and committed to that long term, it all works together."

With this ADS-B "front end" applied to its GuideStar line, Athena Technologies plans to demonstrate an air-traffic management scenario involving multiple aircraft interacting with each other and automatically rerouting as necessary. This will help show the way forward to integrating manned and unmanned systems in commercial airspace, Vos said.

"We’re aiming at doing an ADS-B-based, fully coordinated, automated, air traffic management demonstration within the not-to-distant future," Vos said in the August interview. "I would hope to do it within a year." — Bill Carey


ITT Wins ADS-B Award

Describing the company’s proposal as the least risky of three bids, FAA on Aug. 30 named ITT Corp. as prime contractor for the roll-out of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) service in the United States.

The contract, with options, is valued at $1.86 billion over 18 years. The first phase, costing $207 million over three years, will see the development, test and deployment of ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville, Ky., Philadelphia and Juneau, Alaska. The balance of the contract will cover subscription charges for 15 years based on service volumes.

ITT’s 15-company team presented a technological solution for deploying ADS-B judged superior to competing proposals from industry teams led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The three teams passed an initial screening by FAA late last year and answered a request for offers issued in March.

"This team’s proposal combined the best value and the least risk for a successful implementation," FAA Deputy Administrator Robert Sturgell told reporters in a teleconference. "In just three years under this contract, we’ll be able to commission ADS-B services, and in six years we’ll have ADS-B coverage everywhere we now have radar."

"We’re honored to have been selected by the FAA," John Kefaliotis, ITT director of business development for FAA and Air Traffic Control programs, told Avionics in an interview. "We do believe — in fact, the FAA has stated — that we’ve offered an exceptional technical solution."

ITT has proposed a dual-frequency approach to ADS-B position reporting that will require the use of Universal Access Transceivers (UAT) on GA aircraft and 1090 MHz Extended Squitter transponders on airliners and other large aircraft. FAA will specify avionics equipage through a formal rulemaking, with an expected 10-year phase-in period.

The ITT team includes AT&T, Thales North America, Science Applications International Corp., San Diego; WSI, Andover, Mass.; Aerospace Engineering and Research Associates, Lanham, Md.; Sunhillo Corp., West Berlin, N.J.; Comsearch, Ashburn, Va.; Mission Critical Solutions, Tampa, Fla.; Pragmatics, McLean, Va.; Aviation Communications & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), Phoenix; Sandia Aerospace, Albuquerque, N.M.; NCR Corp., Dayton, Ohio; PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Washington Consulting Group. ITT’s proposal is "heavily invested in a pre-existing infrastructure," and includes the use of AT&T cell phone towers for ADS-B ground station installations, said Vincent Capezzuto, FAA director of surveillance and broadcast services. Among the other principals, Thales North America will supply the 1090 MHz and UAT Ground-based Transceivers (GBTs). ITT’s architecture consists of 749 GBTs, Kefaliotis said. Thales also is involved through ACSS, a joint venture of Thales and L-3 Communications. — Bill Carey

Blakey to Industry Group

Weeks before her five-year term as FAA administrator expired in mid-September, Marion C. Blakey was named president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.

Blakey, 59, is scheduled to take charge of the influential industry group Nov. 12. She succeeds John W. Douglass, who announced plans to retire. The Bush administration had not named a new FAA administrator as Avionics went to press.

Douglass, a former assistant secretary of the Navy and Air Force brigadier general, served as AIA’s president and CEO since September 1998. He will remain with the association through the end of the year to help the transition.

AIA, based in Arlington, Va., represents manufacturers of civil and military aircraft, space systems and their suppliers. The association in late August reported 102 regular members, including Boeing, Honeywell, ITT Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Rockwell Collins, and 179 associate members.

Before President Bush appointed her as FAA administrator in September 2002, succeeding Jane Garvey, Blakey chaired the National Transportation Safety Board. From 1992 to 1993, she served as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and from 1993 to 2001 was the principal of a Washington, D.C., public affairs consulting firm focused on transportation and traffic safety.

Prior to NHTSA, she held positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities and the White House.

"We are very pleased to name Marion Blakey to the role of AIA President and CEO," said Raytheon CEO William H. Swanson, chairman of the AIA Board of Governors. "Her exceptional experience in the executive branch of government, as well her deep expertise in public affairs and government relations, will greatly benefit all the members of AIA as she represents the industry in the years ahead."

Runway Incursions

FAA and more than 40 representatives of airlines, airports, air traffic control and pilot unions, and aerospace manufacturers, agreed Aug. 15 to quickly implement a plan to improve runway safety at U.S. airports.

As of August, there had been 21 serious runway incursions, eight of which involved commercial air carriers, FAA said. This included near collisions of landing and taxiing aircraft July 5 at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and July 11 at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey asked meeting participants to consider solutions in four areas: cockpit procedures, airport signage and markings, air traffic procedures, and technology.

The meeting agreed to a five-point short-term plan:

  • Within 60 days, teams of FAA, airport operators, and airlines will begin safety reviews at the airports where wrong runway departures and runway incursions are the greatest concern. FAA is compiling the list of 20 to 30 airports based on a variety of safety risk factors, including the record of past incursions.

  • Within 60 days, disseminate information and training across the entire aviation industry.

  • Within 60 days, accelerate the deployment of improved airport signage and markings at the top 75 airports, well ahead of a June 2008 mandated deadline.

  • Within 60 days, review cockpit procedures and air traffic control clearance procedures. This may include changing cockpit procedures to minimize pilot activities and distractions while an aircraft is moving on the ground and to make ATC instructions more precise.

  • Implement a voluntary self-reporting system for all air-traffic organization safety personnel, such as air traffic controllers and technicians.

FAA Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell said mid- to long-term goals are also being pursued to maximize situational awareness, minimize pilot distractions, and eliminate runway incursions, using procedures and technology.

Sturgell was asked by reporters whether accelerated or additional deployment of the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X), supplied by Sensis Corp., was being considered.

"We will look at the current schedule and whether we can accelerate our efforts at other airports as well," Sturgell replied, noting that the ASDE-X installation at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was being moved up by two years.

The first ASDE-X was activated for operational use and testing at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, in June 2003, and declared ready for national deployment in October of that year. ASDE-X also is operational at the Theodore Francis Green State Airport, Providence, R.I.; Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Fla.; William P. Hobby Airport, Houston; Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, St. Louis, Mo.; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle; Bradley International Airport, Hartford, Conn.; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta and Louisville International Airport-Standiford Field, Louisville, Ky. A total of 35 major airports will receive ASDE-X.

Sturgell said he is "considering all angles" in implementing technological solutions to the runway incursion problem.

"We will do a business case analysis over whether to accelerate ASDE-X deployments, implement runway status lights and deploy low-cost ground radars systems. We need to make sure we get all the safety benefits out of these systems."

He offered positive reviews of two, low-cost airfield surveillance systems under evaluation at Spokane International with FAA sponsorship. With a price tag of less than $1 million each, Sturgell said "they don’t have all the bells and whistles of ASDE-X, but can provide incremental situational awareness for controllers that is beneficial."

He noted that they can be installed at an airport "in a matter of days" and go operational "in less than week."

Under test at Spokane International are the Critical Area Management System (CAMS), provided by Transtech Airport Solutions, Windsor, Conn., and the NOVA 9000 Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System from Park Air Systems, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary based in Peterborough, U.K.

CAMS utilizes various advanced technologies, including Millimeter Wave Sensors, non-cooperative Optical Identification Sensors and advanced data fusion and processing. The Parks Air Systems NOVA 9000 test article includes only one sensor, which resembles a marine radar. It is mounted on a 30-foot tower adjacent to the airport’s firehouse. It is able to cover the entire airport from that location.

David Crowner, operations manager for Spokane International, is "quite impressed" with the capabilities and reliability of both systems, which are running off-line in the controller’s break room. FAA officials in Washington monitor the data remotely via an Internet link.

Spokane International is not currently on the list to receive ASDE-X, despite suffering from heavy fog on a regular basis. Crowner hopes to keep one or both of the low-cost ground surveillance systems after the FAA-sponsored evaluation is concluded. Based on performance to date, he believes they should go operational. "We very much want to deploy it here. This is something we want," he said. — Ramon Lopez

Incursion Alert

Sensis Corp., Syracuse, N.Y., and Honeywell partnered on a technology demonstration of a crew alerting system that would protect against runway incursions.

The system tested by the two companies would communicate ground-based incursion alerts from FAA’s Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) surveillance radar, provided by Sensis, via Mode S data link to an aircraft’s Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) unit. Flight crews initially would be provided with audible alerts of pending runway conflicts; in the future, visual representations of runway traffic are a possibility.

Sensis and Honeywell officials said the alerting system requires no hardware modification to either ASDE-X or TCAS. In an August briefing for Avionics, they said the joint project aims to address the issue of runway incursions, one of the National Transportation Safety Board’s "most wanted" items, sooner rather than later.

"This is an effort to bootstrap some progress relatively quickly," said Rick Berckefeldt, marketing manager for safety systems with Honeywell Aerospace. "This is a technology demonstration — it’s not a product launch. It’s strictly about what’s possible."

The alerting system was tested in May using Honeywell King Air and Sabreliner aircraft operating at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, site of a FAA Interim Contractor Depot Level Support facility.

ASDE-X fuses data from surface surveillance radar, multilateration sensors, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) sensors and aircraft transponders to provide air-traffic controllers with the position and identification of aircraft and vehicles on the airport surface as well as aircraft within five miles of the airport.

FAA planned to have 10 operational ASDE-X systems by the end of fiscal 2007. Overall, 35 major airports will be equipped by 2010. — Bill Carey

Traffic Management

Sensis Corp., Syracuse, N.Y., said Continental Airlines will subscribe to the company’s "Aerobahn" service to more efficiently manage aircraft traffic flow at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.

Aerobahn is a Web-based service that collects a variety of operational flight data in real-time, including surveillance data from the Sensis Multistatic Dependent System. Users can conduct comprehensive, post-event analysis to accurately measure and improve the performance of the operation.

The Aerobahn system is expected to enhance Continental’s ability to more efficiently manage traffic flows on the airport surface in both routine and irregular operations, thereby reducing taxi-out delays.

Newark is Continental’s second largest hub and joins Houston-Intercontinental Airport as the airline’s second airport location to receive Aerobahn. Continental offers more than 400 daily departures from Newark to 155 non-stop destinations worldwide.

Continental EFBs

Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen reached agreement with Continental Airlines to provide Class 2 and 3 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications fleet wide for the carrier’s 368 aircraft.

Applications include Jeppesen’s terminal charts for EFBs, airport moving map, onboard performance tool, a document viewer and a locally-hosted version of the Jeppesen Data Distribution and Management system, a software configuration management system.

Continental will deploy Class 3 EFBs on two Boeing 777s initially, followed by 25 Boeing 787s. Other aircraft types will be retrofitted with Class 2 EFBs. Jeppesen, Englewood, Colo., will continue supplying paper services during the transition to EFBs.

"Continental’s deployment of our EFB applications and data across their fleet of new and existing aircraft will allow the airline to realize the efficiency our advanced digital navigation solutions offer on an enterprise level basis," said Mark Van Tine, Jeppesen chief operating officer

RNP Developer

FAA invited Jeppesen to participate in a pilot program that allows third-party vendors to develop, test and maintain Required Navigation Performance (RNP) flight procedures in the United States.

Once it reaches qualified status, Jeppesen will be able to complete all phases of designing and implementing new public RNP procedures within the National Airspace System. In April, FAA authorized Naverus, of Kent, Wash., as an RNP procedure developer, the first third-party vendor to win the designation.

"Jeppesen has developed numerous RNP and other types of procedures around the world, including recent work with Boeing at Linzhi airport in the mountainous region of Tibet," said Andy McDowell, senior manager, Jeppesen Airspace Services. "RNP represents a key part of the future air traffic management system."

RNP takes advantage of an aircraft’s satellite navigation capability to fly a more precise path to an airport, saving on fuel and reducing noise and emissions. The aircraft’s flight management computer must be capable of alerting pilots if the aircraft strays from tightly defined airspace.

Air China RNP

Air China received approval to conduct required navigation performance (RNP) operations with its Airbus A319 fleet.

Naverus, which manufactured the system, said last week an Air China A319 departed Lhasa, China, using Naverus RNP procedures making it the world’s first Airbus to use RNP in revenue service. This marks the second aircraft type approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China for RNP operations.

Airspace Redesign

FAA on Sept. 5 issued a final decision on the redesign of airspace over the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. The new design aims to reduce airport delays, fuel consumption, aircraft emissions and noise in the busy Northeast corridor.

The "Integrated Airspace Alternative" modifies the layered airspace structure of the Northeast dating to the 1960s. The design integrates the airspace of the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control with portions of the airspace surrounding Air Route Traffic Control Centers.

Air traffic controllers will have more flexibility in routing aircraft using more efficient separation standards.

Cabin Comm

ARINC unveiled a wireless data communications module designed to bring portable connectivity to airline passenger cabins.

The Mobile Communications Gateway (MCG) is designed to support airlines’ on-board sales and credit card transactions and can be used for other applications, including wireless connectivity and as recharging power source for in-flight electronic devices.

The MCG is the first onboard solution enabling airline crews to download sales data wirelessly after a flight, ARINC said.

Flight trials were planned with airlines that use the Abanco In-Flight payment solution. ARINC and Abanco, Rosemont, Ill., signed a marketing and reseller agreement in July. The companies plan to market a range of streamlined payment and inventory control solutions for onboard sales by airlines

The MCG supports wireless data downloading by several devices simultaneously in a single session. Airline crews can leave point-of-sale devices on board the plane, recharge them with the MCG power source, and receive wireless inventory uploads, ARINC said.

The communications module may be left permanently on an aircraft. It does not rely on airport infrastructure, and airlines can adopt the MCG for use even at airports without Wi-Fi service.

"By introducing the MCG, our goal was to streamline the on-board sales and data reporting process," said Andrew Kemmetmueller, ARINC service director. "The MCG promises to reduce labor cost and inventory loss significantly. We also find it can reduce costs and provide new functionality in other airline operations as well."

FAA Fleet

FAA is upgrading its Flight Inspection fleet of 18 Beech 300 aircraft with an upgraded avionics suite from Rockwell Collins under a $32 million project.

The first of the upgraded aircraft was rolled out in August in Oklahoma City. The remaining 17 installations of the Rockwell Collins ProLine 21 avionics suite will be completed over the next three years.

FAA said it is modernizing flight-inspection technology to support the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Calibration China

Aeroflex, Wichita, Kan., partnered with Ameco Beijing (Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Corp.) to provide a local service center for Chinese customers, an attempt to capitalize on the rapidly growing avionics market in China.

Located at the Beijing Capital International Airport, Ameco Beijing, a joint venture between Air China Ltd. and Lufthansa German Airlines, will calibrate and service Aeroflex avionics test equipment sold in China for civil end users.

"This new partnership enables us to add greater value for our Chinese customers and enhance their confidence in our avionics test equipment. We want our customers to know that when they purchase or use a piece of Aeroflex avionics equipment, their needs will be taken care of quickly and efficiently," said Jimmy Tan, vice president of sales for Asia Pacific, Aeroflex Test Solutions.

Ameco Beijing has a calibration and test center including five laboratories with hundreds of pieces of test equipment.

The center will provide the required knowledge to properly calibrate and service any of Aeroflex’s commercial avionics test equipment.

Air India Suite

Air India selected a Honeywell avionics suite for its B777 and B737NG fleets.

Avionics include the RDR-4B weather radar (for the B737s); the RDR-4000 weather radar (for the B777 only); Quantum Line Comm Nav Surveillance; high-frequency radio; Traffic Collision Avoidance System; Solid State Flight Data Recorder; Solid State Cockpit Voice Recorder; Flight Data Acquisition and Management System; Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (for the B737 only); MCS 7000 Satcom (for the B777 only); and Emergency Locator Transmitter.

Air India is to receive 18 B737NGs between 2006 and 2009, and 23 B777s between 2007 and 2010.

Health Management

Virgin Atlantic Airways will use Boeing’s Airplane Health Management System to monitor the in-flight condition of its 747-400 fleet.

The Boeing system provides in-flight access to aircraft condition and fuel-burn information, enabling airlines to identify and correct problems that might be wasting fuel. Virgin Atlantic will use the health monitoring system on 13 747-400s.

The selection was described as expanding a partnership the two companies have formed to develop environmental solutions.

Boeing and Virgin Atlantic in April said they will work together to reduce fuel burn and cut aircraft emissions on the ground as well as developing sustainable biofuels suitable for commercial jet engines.

In-Flight Phones

More than 11,000 airlines passengers used their own mobile phones in-flight during an Australian trial of the AeroMobile in-flight communications service that started in April.

The service was operated on domestic flights in Australia as part of an evaluation of in-flight text messaging and mobile data services by Qantas Airlines.

AeroMobile, a joint venture between ARINC and Telenor, said the pico-cell system supplied by Panasonic Avionics ensures mobile phones on the aircraft operate at minimum power to avoid interference with aircraft systems. Charges are billed to passengers’ existing cellular phone accounts, similar to any other mobile "roaming" traffic.

The AeroMobile system was provided to Qantas in partnership with Panasonic Avionics and Telstra. Aircraft certification on Qantas 767 aircraft was achieved in early April following conclusion of the necessary approvals by Australian authorities. AeroMobile entered service later that month.

"Passenger feedback has been overwhelmingly positive to the reality of being able to safely use their mobile phones when flying, validating AeroMobile’s technology and business model," said Dave Poltorak, AeroMobile president.

AeroMobile has already received commitment from Emirates airline of Dubai, UAE, for fleet-wide installation of the AeroMobile systems on its aircraft.

Aeroflex Takeover

An investment group completed the $1.1 billion acquisition of avionics test equipment manufacturer Aeroflex, based in Plainview, N.Y., the companies said in August.

Aeroflex shareholders in July approved the buyout by Veritas Capital Fund III L.P., Golden Gate Private Equity Inc. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. Shareholders will receive $14.50 per share.

The company, traded as ARXX on the Nasdaq exchange, designs, develops and manufactures ramp testers, bench testers and automatic test equipment for both civil and military aviation.

Simulation Software

Canadian simulator company CAE in August said it formed Presagis, a new modeling and simulation software company formed by CAE’s recent acquisitions.

CAE said it combined Engenuity Technologies, MultiGen-Paradigm and TERREX and an existing CAE commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software team, to create an independent company specializing in COTS modeling and simulation software.

CAE said the Presagis portfolio will include visualization tools, terrain and 3-D content software and human-machine interface development tools.

Also, in August, CAE completed its $17 million bid to acquire Flightscape Inc., an Ottawa-based safety company providing flight data analysis and flight sciences. Flightscape’s product offerings are based on the gathering and analysis of aircraft flight data to deliver improved flight safety.

Johannesburg System

Era Corp., Reston, Va., said it will provide multilateration, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast and Squid vehicle tracking services at the O.R. Tambo International Airport (formerly Johannesburg International Airport) in South Africa.

Era already has a pilot surveillance system installed at Cape Town International Airport for wide area and surface surveillance. The newly expanded system will have coverage extending to roughly 225 nautical miles from the airport. O.R. Tambo International Airport, Africa’s busiest, has begun renovations in order to support growing passenger demand and the projected increase in operations.


Guardrail Modernization

Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract valued at up to $462 million to continue upgrading the U.S. Army’s RC-12 Guardrail targeting, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, extending its operational life beyond 2020. The company also received the first two task orders under the contract, worth $25 million, to provide signals intelligence sensor upgrades.

The upgraded Guardrail (Beechcraft King Air) will provide advanced signals exploitation capability, enhanced signals intelligence processing, precision geo-location and improved situational awareness. The modernization also will provide a common baseline for hardware and software across the fleet.

Northrop Grumman’s team includes Lockheed Martin, Owego, N.Y., for geo-location of target emitters; Zeta Associates, Fairfax, Va., for integrated signals processing capabilities; and L-3 Communications Systems, Salt Lake City, for air-to-ground data link.

F-35 Milestone

The F-35 Lightning II achieved another development milestone in August after successfully completing the Pilot Training System Critical Design Review (CDR), which verifies the design maturity of the pilot training system and its subcomponents, Lockheed Martin said.

The CDR is a prerequisite for the training system to move into the implementation phase, which includes software and hardware development.

"The results of our pilot training system design review helps ensure that pilots get the most comprehensive, technologically-advanced integrated schoolhouse possible, including simulator and classroom training," said Dale Bennett, Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support president.

The F-35 pilot training system includes a Full Mission Simulator with a 360-degree field-of-view, desktop simulation exercises, courseware lessons and flight events.

F-35 pilots will train at the new Integrated Training Center at Eglin AFB, Fla., slated to open in 2010. This will coincide with the arrival of the first two Low Rate Initial Production aircraft scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Air Force.

Networking Demo

BAE Systems, Rockville, Md., completed a successful demonstration of its Flexible Access Secure Transfer (FAST) networking waveform, a wireless networking protocol developed for airborne tactical networking.

The demonstration included Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity, Voice over IP, mobile ad-hoc networking, streaming video and imagery. It was part of an $8 million contract performed with SRA International, prime contractor for the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

The FAST waveform supports real-time exchange of multimedia communications, including data, voice and video.

"The test demonstrates the capability to modernize Link 16 [data link] to operate in a net-centric environment today," said Joseph McCarthy, vice president and general manager of communications and tactical networks for BAE Systems.

Micro Memory

Norway-based VMETRO will acquire Micro Memory LLC, Chatsworth, Calif., a privately held provider of board-level products for streaming signal and image processing, real-time data acquisition, memory nodes and enterprise network storage.

The acquisition will improve VMETRO’s capabilities to serve existing defense and aerospace customers and expand market diversification, the company said.

‘Integrator’ UAS

Insitu, Bingen, Wash., is conducting development flight tests of a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) known as Integrator.

The aircraft is designed to integrate payloads for a variety of missions. In its baseline configuration, Integrator carries electro-optical and infrared cameras, with optional IR marker and laser rangefinder. It has a 16-foot wingspan, 24-hour endurance, line-of-sight communications range of 55 nautical miles and beyond-line-of-sight mission radius of up to 550 nm.

The vehicle is launched via pneumatic catapult and recovered by wingtip snag.

UAV Datalink

Rockwell Collins and Cubic Defense Applications of San Diego flight-tested their Mini-Common Data Link (CDL) on manned and unmanned aircraft. A prototype terminal was flown aboard a King Air platform as well as Swift Engineering’s Killer Bee UAS at the El Centro Naval Air Facility, Calif.

During testing, the Mini-CDL prototype, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds, demonstrated bi-directional communications out to 20 miles and interoperability with existing CDL systems. The aircraft transmitted high-bandwidth streaming video from on-board cameras to the ground station.

"The Mini-CDL will ensure interoperable communications for the small UAVs," said Bruce King, vice president and general manager of communication systems for Rockwell Collins. "It will enable the [military] services to equip their smaller airborne vehicles with a data link that offers much greater capability and security than those in use today, while meeting DoD policy and the small size and weight restrictions required in these types of UAVs."

Ground Station

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in late July demonstrated its next-generation Advanced Cockpit Ground Control Station during the flight of a mission-configured MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft.

The demonstration was conducted at General Atomics’ flight operations facility in Palmdale, Calif. "All objectives were achieved during the flight," including manual launch and recovery mode using the Advanced Cockpit’s stick and throttle commands, the company said.

The Advanced Cockpit research effort was launched early last year. In June 2007, the U.S. Air Force issued a sole-source request for proposal to General Atomics to develop the ground station for the company’s MQ-1 Predator and larger MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

Completion of the Advanced Cockpit under the RFP is expected in 2009.

Partnership Expands

The Transglobal Secure Collaboration Program (TSCP), a government-industry partnership focused on the aerospace and defense industry, is opening its membership to technology companies and system integrators.

The Herndon, Va.-based group said the move reflects the progress made in the development of requirements for information sharing among defense agencies and their providers.

TSCP said the invitation gives software developers and consultants a unique opportunity to work directly with global defense agencies and aerospace and defense companies on developing information-sharing solutions.

Current TSCP members include the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. General Services Administration, U.K. Ministry of Defence, U.K. Department of Trade & Industry, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems, Boeing, EADS/Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Rolls Royce.

BATMAV Delivery

The U.S. Air Force took delivery of a Battlefield Air Tactical Micro Air Vehicle, or BATMAV, Micro Unmanned Aircraft System, including the Wasp III air vehicle, from AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif.

The Wasp III has a wingspan of 29 inches, weighs 1 pound and carries electro-optical and infrared sensors. The system is backpackable and is capable of operating for up to 45 minutes at up to 5 kilometers from the transceiver.

The aircraft is a Block III version of the Wasp micro UAS, which AeroVironment developed under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Avionics, March 2007, p. 28).

AeroVironment received the BATMAV award in December 2006. The company had received orders for 30 systems through the contract, which provides for purchases of up to $45 million over a period of five years.

AMX Upgrade

Embraer in August said it received the first of 53 AMX fighter bombers scheduled to receive mid-life updates for the Brazilian Air Force.

The upgrade to single-seat A1-A and two-seat A1-B fighters will include three multifunction color displays, head-up display, night vision goggle compatibility and new communications, navigation suite. Israel’s Elbit Systems is lead contractor.

The AMX was manufactured by Alenia Aermacchi and Embraer from 1989 to 2000 for the air forces of Brazil, Italy and Venezuela. The Brazilian modernization program aims to extend the life of the AMX for 20 years.


Aerosonic Acquisition

Aerosonic Corp., of Clearwater, Fla., in August said it will acquire Op Technologies of Beaverton, Ore., a developer and manufacturer of glass cockpit displays. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Aerosonic, which supplies precision flight products for commercial, business and military aircraft, said the deal will allow it to compete on a larger scale across a wider number of aircraft products. Op Technologies produces a series of cockpit displays for experimental general aviation, including the Pegasus Integrated Avionics System. Op also has been developing similar products for FAA-certified aircraft.

"This transaction creates a path for meaningful revenue growth and reduces our cost and time to market for a family of products that addresses a significant component of our strategic plan," said David Baldini, Aerosonic chairman, president and CEO.

"We believe that this transaction will establish a new platform for future growth and will allow us to better serve our present and future customers."

S-61 Upgrade

Acrohelipro Global Services, a subsidiary of Vector Aerospace, will outfit two Sikorsky S-61s operated by Carson Helicopters Services with the Sagem Avionics’ Integrated Cockpit Display System.

Carson Helicopters, Grants Pass, Ore., also selected Acrohelipro to work on an S-61 airframe rewire program for 10 helicopters, with the work taking place over the next two and a half years.

The Sagem ICDS includes five 10-inch cockpit displays and incorporates two Primary Flight Displays and two Multi-Function Displays for both the pilot and co-pilot. An additional center instrument panel-mounted display houses a caution advisory panel.


Offshore oil operator Era Helicopters, Lake Charles, La., said FAA approved its Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, making it the only helicopter operator with an FAA-approved FOQA program.

Era has equipped its helicopter fleet with Flight Data Monitoring and Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (FDM/HUMS) and uses Sagem Avionics’ Analysis Ground Station software.

"We believe these investments are beneficial in providing our employees, customers and passengers with the safest and most efficient rotary wing transportation possible. Ultimately we plan to have all of our helicopters equipped with FDM/HUMS," said Ed Washecka, Era Helicopters CEO.

JPALS Contract

Honeywell in August was awarded a $5.2 million contract for research and development of the U.S. Air Force Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS).

The JPALS program, a joint development of the Air Force, Army and Navy, will develop differential GPS (DGPS) systems to provide rapidly deployable, mobile, day-night, all weather precision approach and landing capability for military aircraft, replacing legacy approach and landing systems with a single system.

JPALS is similar to the GPS Local Area Augmentation System but is intended primarily as a military program. It is expected to allow aircraft to land on any suitable land or sea-based surface.

The system also will be interoperable with Honeywell’s civil Ground Based Augmentation System, currently slated for FAA Category I approval in 2008.

The Honeywell-led team will test key elements, perform software development studies and conduct program analysis for a land-based DGPS capability aimed at achieving Category II and III approach performance levels. Partner companies are Sierra Nevada, Boeing and QinetiQ. The team received a $4.2 million contract in March to support the U.S. Navy’s sea-based JPALS program.


  • Lockheed Martin received a $951.7 million contract from the U.S. Navy to produce and integrate mission systems for the MH-60R helicopter over five years. The contract provides for Lockheed Martin Systems Integration of Owego, N.Y., to integrate electronic systems into 139 multi-mission helicopters through 2013.

  • Rockwell Collins won a $100 million contract modification for the purchase of 43,093 Defense Advanced GPS Receivers (DAGR) and accessories. The DAGR will provide GPS users a Precise Positioning System, hand-held, dual-frequency, lightweight receiver.

  • BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration won a $52.5 million contract from the U.S. Navy to supply Low Band Transmitters, V-Pol antennas, H-Pol antennas, Band 2 Adapter Interface Assemblies, RF Test Station, antenna test stations, transmitter test stations, test equipment and non-recurring engineering for the microprocessor upgrade and spare and repair parts for the AN/ALQ-99 LBT – Antenna Group for the EA-6B aircraft.

  • Boeing won a $30 million contract to continue providing Boeing Broadband Satcom Network (BBSN) service to the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command. BBSN, the military version of the defunct Connexion by Boeing commercial service, provides high-speed Internet communications and direct broadcast satellite TV.

  • Harris Corp., Melbourne, Fla., received a five-year, $30 million follow-on contract from Lockheed Martin to supply high-speed, fiber-optic network components for the U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor program. The award brings the total value of the program for Harris to more than $280 million since 1991, the company said.

  • The U.S. Army, through the Program Executive Office of Simulation Training and Instrumentation, awarded Rockwell Collins a $23.8 million contract for the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer Helmet Mounted Display program.

  • Lockheed Martin received a $23 million contract from Northrop Grumman to support the upgrade of satellite communication systems used on the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 bomber. As part of the program’s system development and demonstration phase, Lockheed Martin will replace the B-2’s current flight management computers with a new subsystem.

  • Lockheed Martin has been contracted by the Royal Thai Air Force to provide a TPS-77 long-range, air surveillance radar. The radar, which will be made at Lockheed Martin’s Syracuse, N.Y., facility, will be installed and operational in 2009.

  • Boeing won a $13.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance UAV services to the U.S. Navy. Work will be performed in St. Louis and completed in October 2008.

  • BAE Systems received an $8 million contract to develop high-power amplifier technology capable of guarding U.S. forces against radar-guided missile threats. Under the contract, BAE will build a 160-watt solid-state, gallium nitride power amplifier for communications, electronic warfare and radar applications.

  • Northrop Grumman won a $6.8 million contract from the U.S. Navy to upgrade three additional fleet EA-6B Prowlers with the latest electronic attack system. The contract covers installation of Improved Capability kits, which include the ALQ-218 receiver and a new workstation display system.

    –– Orbit International Corp., Hauppauge, N.Y., said its subsidiary, Behlman Electronics, received a $950,000 order from the U.S. Navy for the manufacture of Roll Resolvers, which support the Forward Looking Infrared system used on the F/A-18 C/D aircraft. Deliveries are expected to commence this year and continue through the second quarter of 2009.

  • VECTr Systems, Falls Church, Va., said it received its first order, worth up to $900,000, for its airborne MG-100 Navigation and Map Generation Systems for a foreign military customer. Deliveries are scheduled to begin during the fourth quarter of 2007.

  • Metronor AS, of Norway, and Saab signed an agreement to develop and adapt an electro-optical system for boresight harmonization of the helmet tracker system for the Saab Gripen’s Helmet Mounted Display and Sight System.

  • Pilatus Aircraft, Stans, Switzerland, selected the S-TEC IntelliFlight 1950 Digital Flight Control System (DFCS) for its PC-21 high-performance turboprop trainer.


  • Captions in the August 2007 feature, "Legacy Systems, New Life," were placed incorrectly with photographs.

  • Thomson-CSF was misspelled in the September 2007 Editor’s Note, p. 6.

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