ATM Modernization, Commercial, Embedded Avionics

RTCA Approves New FIS-B MOPS

By Woodrow Bellamy III | March 31, 2015
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[Avionics Today 03-31-3015] During its March meeting, the RTCA Program Management Committee (PMC) approved a new document, DO-358, which provides the Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for Flight Information Services Broadcast (FIS-B). 
Flight Information Services Broadcast (FIS-B) transmits graphical national weather service products, temporary flight restrictions, and special use airspace information via Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) equipment on 978 mHz. Photo: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Florida NextGen Testbed.
The standards define system characteristics for airborne processing and cockpit display of the aeronautical and meteorological data provided by FIS-B. This is part of the FAA's portfolio of surveillance services used to support aircraft separation assurance and Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) known as the Surveillance and Broadcast Services Subsystem (SBSS). Paul Freeman, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) deputy program manager at Exelis, spent time working on the MOPS over the past two years. Freeman said the MOPS were needed to provide more standardization around the uplink and processing of the various sets of data about the National Airspace System (NAS) the FIS-B provides. 
"Exelis has been broadcasting the FIS-B products since 2008 and there have been some FIS-B avionics on the market and available to pilots since then, but what they had to operate with wasn’t a complete MOPS," said Freeman. 
Previous documents provided FIS-B standards, though not to the complete coverage of equipment and communication channels featured in DO-358, according to Freeman. For example, there was a previous MOPS specifically defining the standards for the UAT radio data link communications channel, but it did not provide standards for all of the information provided by FIS-B, the FAA's free broadcast of weather information, Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), among other information. 
"Essentially, the FIS-B MOPS is finally a minimum performance standards document that describes what someone will need to certify if they want to build a FIS-B avionics receiver and it also very importantly includes some test criteria files," said Freeman. "This does affect the cockpit displays, provides some minimum performance standards. It gets into what kind of displays and symbology is required but it tries not to be too prescriptive because we didn’t want to stifle innovation."
DO-358 was drafted and proposed for PMC approval by RTCA Special Committee (SC-206), established in 2005 to develop new standards for Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) and Meteorological Data Link Services (MET). Allan Hart, a technology manager at Honeywell Aerospace, and Rocky Stone, a chief technical pilot at United Airlines, co-chair the committee with involvement from the FAA as well. 
“The MOPS group proposed to the FAA a set of improvements, which are very discrete improvements for the pilot community, and the FAA went ahead and instructed Exelis to implement those improvements. We’re in the process of writing the code for those now,” said Freeman. 
One of those new improvements is a feature called the complete report list, which will provide a way to ensure the onboard avionics receive all of the information being broadcasted over the ground-based FIS-B system. 
“Previously, there wasn’t a way for the aircraft avionics to know whether or not everything being sent from the ground was being received,” said Freeman. “If you’re flying in a small airplane, you might potentially be passing in and out of coverage — if you’re flying in a mountainous area, for example. The current report list is a new edition, giving the avionics in the airplane a complete list of everything being sent by the ground system, giving the pilot an assurance everything was received or to provide a red flag that indicates that the ground system was sending something and it was not received. That would be important for decision making in the cockpit.”
Freeman said the collaboration in the group’s progress toward DO-358 lead to members of the subgroup proposing new functionality for the established service provided by the FIS-B broadcast system. 

“We did have participation from avionics vendors, Exelis, which is of course providing the ground system, and from the FAA,” said Freeman. “We had representation from the users, avionics manufacturers — the whole spectrum of all the stakeholders. We all learned a lot because we bounced ideas off each other. It was truly collaborative. It resulted in a good set of standards that will be useable.” 

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