Perspectives: Advancing AIXM 

By Sam Bacharach | November 1, 2009
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FAA, Eurocontrol, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and others, with the assistance of companies such as FedEx and Lufthansa, are developing the Aeronautical Information Exchange Model (AIXM), a standard designed to enable the management and distribution of Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) data in digital format. AIXM takes advantage of existing and emerging information engineering standards to support current and future aeronautical information system requirements.

The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), an international consensus standards organization, is assisting in AIXM’s development by managing rapid prototyping testbeds. In the recent OGC Web Services testbed (OWS-6), organizations participating in the testbed used OWS-6 sponsors’ AIXM requirements as a guide with the goal that the next release of the OGC Geography Markup Language Encoding Standard (GML) continue to meet the needs of international aviation.

OGC Web Services (OWS) testbeds involve hands-on development and testing of interfaces and encodings that enable interoperability. The testbeds address interoperability requirements derived from use cases that depict real-world geospatial information management and communication. The use cases are woven into a real-world scenario created by the testbed sponsors. The interfaces and encodings may implement existing standards or they may be prototypes of new standards.

In the OWS-6 test bed demonstration scenario, various actors responded to an airport hostage-taking event and fire. Preflight diversion planning and airport status notification use cases used open Web services and AIXM to enable secure access to multiple public data sources, as well as to provide notifications and support routine flight operations.

AIXM-encoded data was used in Europe-U.S. communications regarding the closing of runways at the airport in Arlanda, Sweden, site of the fictional hostage taking. The pilot changed to an alternate plan — developed from various online data sources — and headed for Norrkoping, Sweden.

To support the OWS-6 scenario and to simulate the provision of aeronautical information directly to flight decks and electronic flight bags, several aviation client prototypes were developed. The client prototypes were all based on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products and supported the seamless retrieval and visualization of AIXM and weather information (including the emerging Weather Information Exchange Model, or WXXM) emphasizing time and spatial filtering.

Cross-cutting themes in the hostage response scenario included event architecture, alerts and notifications; security architecture and secured services within and across domains; and a catalog service for all data sources, sensors and application schemas.

In addition to being sure that GML, as implemented in AIXM, will meet the specific needs of the aviation community, this standards effort will also ensure that AIXM will be as interoperable as possible, with applications that include services provided by geographic information systems (GIS), Earth imaging systems, Earth browsers (such as Google Earth and Microsoft’s Bing Maps), location-based services, meteorology models, weather information standards (such as WXXM), navigation systems, sensor webs and other geospatial technologies.

This broad-spectrum interoperability, enabled by a consortium whose members represent many different "information communities," ultimately gives the aviation community access to far more online geospatial data and Web services than would be available through aviation-only standards.

FAA and Eurocontrol are jointly sponsoring the next OGC Web Services initiative (OWS-7) to further increase industry adoption of AIXM (and WXXM) and to support the operational use and validation of these emerging standards.

The OGC encourages broader international sponsorship of AIXM development and broader participation by technology providers.

Sam Bacharach is executive director of Outreach and Community Adoption at the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. He can be reached at 703-707-0261 or [email protected].

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