Editor's Note

Industry scan

By Jonathan Ray | October 1, 2011
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No Disruption to GPS

Any confusion regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) stance on GPS interference was made clear when FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told reporters that the agency would under no circumstances allow LightSquared’s proposed nationwide wireless broadband service to interfere with navigation systems or compromise safety.

“We’re not going to do anything that creates problems for GPS safety and service as we explore technical solutions that will both protect GPS and allow a new service to launch that will lead to billions of dollars of private investment, real job creation and competition,” Genachowski said, repeating the agency’s commitment to a “fact-based, engineering-based” review process. “Everyone involved in the process wants to make sure that GPS is not interfered with. What will determine the outcome will be the facts and the engineering.”

The Aug. 9 statement came just days before the end of the public comment period on LightSquared’s latest proposal, and was viewed as a victory by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and other aviation industry groups that had been lobbying hard against approval. Many are concerned the proposed broadband network would interrupt air navigation systems by interfering with wireless spectrum space currently devoted to GPS signals.

“The efforts of ALPA and other GPS users appear to have changed the Federal Communication Commission’s position on the proposed LightSquared broadband network and its interference with GPS,” the ALPA said in a statement to its members. “While commissioners agreed that the service proposed by LightSquared would be valuable, they admitted that the interference issue outweighs other concerns. FCC staff members indicated that they were very interested in protecting aircraft navigation to places such as Reagan Washington National Airport — as planes on approach to DCA can be seen from the FCC’s conference room window.”

More than 3,200 public comments were submitted on the proposal — which seeks to deploy the company’s wireless network in a 10 MHz band that’s further away from the GPS spectrum than in its original plan — by the Aug. 15 deadline. The FCC has since said that it has no timeline for a decision and that it may call for additional testing before coming to a final ruling. In fact, the chief of the agency’s Office of Engineering and Technology, Julius Knapp, has reportedly already requested additional details from LightSquared and the U.S. GPS Industry Council regarding the specific devices that are seeing interference from the proposed network.

LightSquared, for its part, remains committed to its proposal and sent a letter to the Commission on Aug. 11 blaming the GPS industry for the prolonged political fight.

“Had the GPS industry complied with DoD’s recommended filtering standards for GPS receivers, there would be no issue with LightSquared’s operations in the lower portion of its downlink band,” Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared vice president for Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy, wrote in the filing.

From here, the company says it is up to the FCC to make a decision based on the science and engineering facts of the case.

“We’re optimistic that a compromise can be reached and we’re very confident that we’ve resolved the vast majority of issues related to GPS interference,” said LightSquared spokesperson Chris Stern. “LightSquared is looking forward to working with the involved federal agencies to roll-out this new network for the nation.”

LightSqared may soon have some competition in this space, as earlier this week satellite television provider Dish Network announced preliminary plans to roll-out a similar wireless broadband network by 2014, depending on its own FCC approval. — Tim Sprinkle

TTTech on CSeries

TTTech, based in Vienna, Austria, was selected by Rockwell Collins to provide hardware and software products based on the Time-Triggered Protocol TTP for the Bombardier CSeries flight control computer system.

TTP, an open SAE standard “SAE AS6003-TTP Communication Protocol,” has a bandwidth of up to 20 Mbit/s per channel and is a significant performance improvement compared with CAN, Mil-Std-1553 and ARINC 429, according to TTTech. Additionally, TTP provides enhanced fault isolation, system health monitoring and redundancy management.

“Being selected by Rockwell Collins a leading provider of advanced flight control systems proves once again that the TTP technology perfectly fits today’s and future requirements for enhanced airborne control systems,” said Georg Kopetz, member of the executive board, TTTech Computertechnik AG. “We are confident that our products will help Rockwell Collins to carry out development of the flight control computers in a smooth and cost-efficient way.”

Panasonic on SAS Fleet

Panasonic Avionics Corp., of Lake Forest, Calif., will install its eXConnect and eXPhone in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) systems on Scandinavian Airlines’ (SAS) fleet of domestic, pan-European and intercontinental aircraft. SAS is planning on introducing the service to its passengers at the end of this year.

The eXConnect system provides two-way broadband connectivity to an aircraft. Panasonic says the airline will use the system to provide in-flight broadband Internet access over Wi-Fi to passengers. The company’s eXPhone product, offered in collaboration with AeroMobile’s in-flight mobile phone service, will allow SAS passengers to use their mobile phones devices onboard to make and receive voice calls if selected by the airline, send and receive SMS text messages and use GPRS services such as email and Internet access.


Embraer, Elbit Form JV

The Brazilian subsidiary of Israeli company Elbit Systems has formed a joint venture company with Embraer, aimed at developing technologies in the areas of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), avionics and simulators.

The new company, Harpia Sistemas S.A., will be 51 percent owned by Embraer Defesa e Segurança S.A. and 49 percent owned by AEL Sistemas S.A., the companies said Sept. 8. It will be based in Brasilia.

Initially, the companies said they will be focused on the Brazilian market, but that will be expanded in the future.

“The creation of Harpia is in perfect alignment with Brazil’s national defense strategy and it will be an important instrument for meeting the needs of the armed and the security forces. Furthermore, the potential for dual application of unmanned aerial systems and the technology generated through it must also be highlighted,” said Luiz Carlos Aguiar, president of Embraer Defesa.

Additionally, Embraer Defesa acquired a 25 percent interest in AEL.

“We are very excited with Embraer Defesa’s decision to invest in AEL and our establishment of the jointly owned company, which attests to the high-level of satisfaction and mutual trust that our companies have nurtured throughout many years of collaboration,” said Shlomo Erez, president of AEL.

Rugged Stalker UAS

Lockheed Martin developed a ruggedized version of its Stalker Unmanned Air System (UAS), called the Stalker eXtreme Endurance (XE) UAS.

The Stalker XE system has a flight endurance time of eight-plus hours, is powered by Ultra Electronics’ hybrid system using a propane fuel cell and lithium polymer battery. The fuel cell technology was developed through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored effort led by Lockheed Martin and Adaptive Materials, now a division of Ultra Electronics Holdings.

“Missions requiring real-time eyes-on a situation for extended periods of time, like border patrol, pipeline surveillance and special operations, can now be conducted by a small UAS versus a larger, more costly system,” said Tom Koonce, Lockheed Martin’s Stalker program manager. “The convenience and lower cost of a small UAS combined with extended endurance is a true game-changer.”

The Stalker XE system includes two aircraft, fuel cells, command and control ground station, support equipment and small propane fuel storage tank. The standard air vehicle sensor is a modular dual daylight and night-time imager that allows persistent surveillance during the visual/thermal transition from day to night.

Smaller STARLite

Northrop Grumman said in August it is developing a smaller version of its STARLite radar system designed to be deployable on the Shadow unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

Northrop Grumman is working on a smaller, 45-pound version of its 65-pound STARLite radar system, which is currently in full rate production. The smaller STARLite, which is slated to be available next year, will hold an 8-inch antenna; the bigger STARLite can potentially hold up to a 16-inch antenna.

The STARLite is slated to go to war on the Hellfire-armed Grey Eagle UAS in early 2012. STARLite is under contract to the U.S. Army Communications and Electronics Command for its MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS program. It has also been installed on the U.S. Army Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS) aerostat. It operates in three modes, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) with two SAR modes: Strip and Spot; Ground Moving Target Indicator; and dismount Moving Target Indicator, which has been demonstrated on the PTDS platform (Avionics, May 2011, page 24).


C-130 Computers

BAE Systems will design and test mission computers for 37 C-130 aircraft under a $23 million U.S. Air Force contract announced on Sept. 9. The company will develop, qualify and test the new computers, integrate existing software and manufacture the kits the Air Force uses for final installation.

The new mission computers will replace the current versions on about 20 MC-130H variants and 17 AC-130U variants used by Special Operations Forces. BAE Systems will also conduct ground and flight testing for the computers. BAE Systems has designed, supported and completed more than 200 modifications to C-130 variants since the late 1990s. Earlier this year, BAE Systems won an $8 million contract to develop, test and install more than 85 crashworthy seat systems to enhance the survivability of C-130s.

The new contract for the computers was awarded by the Air Force Materiel Command at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Ga. The work will be conducted at BAE Systems facilities in Warner Robins and San Antonio, Texas, and at various government locations.

“This win further strengthens our position in the market for developing and upgrading aircraft mission computers,” said Gordon Eldridge, vice president and general manager of Aerospace Solutions at BAE Systems Support Solutions. “We continue to expand on our support to the C-130 community.”


ATM System in Minn., N.Y.

Lockheed Martin deployed air traffic management tool at two major U.S. airports the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and the Minneapolis TRACON the company announced in September.

In New York, the company delivered software to enable the use of GPS technology within the nation’s second busiest airspace. The automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) enabling software enhancements were delivered via the FAA’s Common Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) program, which Lockheed Martin primes and helps air traffic controllers safely separate departing and arriving aircraft. Common ARTS combines surveillance reports from multiple sensors, including traditional radars and ADS-B, into a single system track per aircraft.

In Minnesota, the company rolled out the Automated Terminal Proximity Alert (ATPA), which is designed to help maintain safe separation between aircraft on final approach. It lets controllers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport know what the distance is between aircraft that are flying in-line instrument approaches, according to the company.

Another feature is that the system will visually alert a controller when a trailing plane is predicted to get too close to an aircraft ahead of it, allowing the controller to take action before a loss of standard separation occurs.

“ATPA is a tool that will help controllers optimize performance using existing separation standards,” said Sandra Samuel, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS-Civil Transportation Solutions business. “Being able to roll-out ATPA now demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to providing the FAA with NextGen improvements today, not tomorrow.”

Lockheed Martin said the system is also being used at the St. Louis TRACON, and it should be available at the Chicago and Denver TRACONs soon. Current plans are to bring ATPA to other CARTS facilities that have color displays by the end of the year.


➤ The U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $47 million contract to develop, demonstrate and deliver autonomous technologies for unmanned air systems in support of in-theater unmanned cargo resupply missions.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace will demonstrate intelligent autonomous technologies for unmanned aerial systems using the K-MAX platform, which is optimized for external load operations. Prior to being deployed for cargo resupply missions, the technology will be demonstrated in an operationally realistic environment on the unmanned K-MAX.

➤ AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, Calif., received a $15.9 million contract order, under an existing contract with the U.S. Army. The order comprises Army contractor logistics support for Raven systems. The logistics support services are scheduled to be delivered within the next several months.

The Raven unmanned aircraft is a 4.2-pound, backpackable, hand-launched sensor platform that provides day and night, real-time video imagery for “over the hill” and “around the corner” reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of tactical units, according to the company.

➤ Curtiss-Wright was awarded a $15 million contract to supply rugged embedded digital signal processor modules for use on Saab’s new Gripen Next Generation (NG) fighter. The contract, which runs from 2010 to 2014, has an estimated potential additional value of $10 million during the lifetime of the program.

Curtiss-Wright’s digital signal processor modules will provide the radar processing for the Gripen’s fire control radar system. The company’s Motion Control segment will develop the digital signal processor modules at its Ashburn, Va., facility.

➤ Elbit Systems U.S. subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America, has been awarded a contract to supply Boeing with the CV-22 Color Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to Elbit, coupling Helmet Display and Tracking System (HDTS) technology with new color symbology for day and night vision goggle night missions will allow a greater level of situational awareness. The HMD is based on the Elbit Systems ANVIS/HUD system which has been in use by U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force.

➤ Rockwell Collins signed an agreement with Inmarsat to develop, produce and distribute user terminals and provide service for future Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) aeronautical services to the aviation industry. The agreement will bring global broadband connectivity to business, commercial air transport and government aircraft, according to Rockwell Collins. The GX offering, a global Ka-Band broadband connectivity offering, will begin after the launch of the first Inmarsat-5 satellite scheduled for mid-2013 with global services for commercial air transport, business aviation and government customers worldwide in 2014.

➤ L-3 Communications received a firm-fixed price contract from Lockheed Martin to develop a 5-by-5-inch color Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Display (AMLCD) assembly for the U.S. Army’s AH-64D. L-3’s new AMLCD assembly will be a direct replacement for the current monochromatic display unit, which will be used to enhance the Apache’s target acquisition and night vision sensor display capabilities.

➤ Metron Aviation was awarded a NASA contract to perform advanced research and development to further NextGen airspace management concepts. The company will support NASA’s NextGen Concepts and Technology Development Project, as it continues to conceptualize and create Dynamic Airspace Configuration (DAC) concepts for allocating airspace capacity during convective weather events. Metron Aviation will develop DAC concepts and algorithms that incorporate uncertainties in weather forecasts, methods for conversion of convective weather activities into airspace capacity and uncertain pilot, airline and Traffic Flow Management responses to weather.

➤ Esterline CMC Electronics will supply its flight management system and GPS/wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) sensor to the Canadian Department of National Defense’s A310 fleet of five multi-role transport and tanker aircraft. The A310 upgrade program will involve the installation of dual CMA-9000 FMS and CMA-5024 GPS WAAS sensors, providing precision area navigation.

➤ ARINC was awarded the contract to provide Eurocontrol with a test system to validate the functioning of VDL Mode 2 (VDL2) avionics in a multi-frequency environment. ARINC’s validation system will be installed in a new laboratory at the Eurocontrol Experimental Centre (EEC) in Bretigny, France, the same location where ARINC installed a VDL2 testbed in 2004 for Eurocontrol under the Link2000 Program. ARINC said the validation of avionics will be a critical step for the European air transport community, which faces a DataLink Services Implementing Rule to implement Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, based on VDL Mode 2 avionics, for air traffic control communications.

Europe’s Maastricht Upper Air Center and airlines have been using VDL Mode 2 communications since 2004 under the EC Link2000 Program. But with anticipated growth of air traffic going forward, multiple VDL2 frequencies will soon be needed to support the required capacity. All VDL2 systems will need to operate reliably in a multi-frequency environment by changing channels as required to maximize performance and avoid frequency congestion. Testing of this functionality has not been done before.

➤ Teletronics Technology Corp., of Newtown, Pa., will supply networked data acquisition equipment to support the flight test program for Bombardier’s C-Series aircraft. The system will include signal conditioning, digital, analog and network-based data acquisition equipment as well as ground-based receivers and software that will be used in validating the performance of the CS100 and CS300.

➤ Curtiss-Wright received a contract from BAE Systems to provide an image processor subsystem for use on the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance imaging systems, ARGUS-IS and ARGUS-IR, which BAE is developing under a DARPA contract. The Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) is an airborne processing system that can simultaneously and continuously detect and track the presence and motion of thousands of small or large targets across an area covering tens of square miles. Delivery is scheduled for the third quarter and is expected to run through the end of 2011. Including this initial contract, total orders in 2011 are anticipated to approach $2.5 million, with an estimated total value of $27.5 million during the life of both programs.

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