ATM Modernization, Commercial, Embedded Avionics

Inmarsat, ESA Target 2018 for i4D in Europe

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | July 21, 2015
Send Feedback

[Avionics Today 07-21-2015] Inmarsat announced last week that by 2018, under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Iris Precursor program, the air-to-ground communications support for initial 4-D flight path control will be in place to begin tracking aircraft trajectories in European airspace in four dimensions: latitude, longitude, altitude and time. ESA and Inmarsat have completed the final design review for the first phase of Iris Precursor, which unlocks $8.2 million in ESA and industry partner funding for the second phase of Iris, the satellite communications provider said.
The Airbus A350 XWB–pictured here at the Paris Air Show–has an avionics architecture that is i4D capable. Photo: Airbus. 
Under the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) 10 Iris initiative, based on the SwiftBroadband Internet Protocol (IP)-based packet switched service, the Iris program aims to develop satellite communications capabilities that support safety critical Air Traffic Management (ATM) data communications. Now that the system design phase is complete, Inmarsat, ESA and industry partners are moving forward to build a satellite overlay service to terrestrial Very High Frequency (VHF) networks through the Single European Sky ATM Research program
Inmarsat first announced in 2013 the confirmation of a major $14.6 million funding commitment by the ESA Ministerial Council to validate SwiftBroadBand Safety as part of the overall Single European Sky air traffic management modernization program. Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, called the completion of the first phase of Iris Precursor “an important milestone for Inmarsat and ESA” and a project that will “unlock the full potential of the aviation industry in the region.” While the Iris project targets unlocking 4-D trajectory management in European airspace, Inmarsat believes the demonstration of the concept in Europe could unlock opportunities for deployment in North America and the Asia Pacific.
While the ESA says Iris will have the ability to enable full-scale usage of 4-D trajectory management over global airspace until 2028, the foundation for 4-D is being established now. Airbus has been one of the leading industry players in this realm by participating in the world’s first initial 4D (i4D) flight in 2012. The French airframe manufacturer then completed the second i4D flight trials as part of a SESAR joint project with Flight Management Systems (FMS) provided by Honeywell and Thales in early 2014. 
In January and February of this year, Thales participated in the VP708 exercise in Rome, which focused on testing i4D and Airborne Separation Assistance System (ASAS) spacing FMS functions. During an interview regarding its involvement in the research and development phase of the Single European Sky program, Luc Lallouette, program management office Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) director at Thales, told Avionics Magazine the technical standards for i4D are mature and can support initial deployment but that further development is needed on the ground system side to fully exploit the i4D trajectory exchange capabilities in the context of trajectory-based operations
Airbus Head of Systems Sales and Airlines Electrical Engineering Committee (AEEC) Executive Committee Member Thierry Harquin also recently told Avionics Magazine that following the second i4D flight trial last year, the main 4D objective for Airbus right now is to support deployment of current aircraft system definitions with certified avionics via the SESAR Pilot Common Project (PCP). 

“The European Commission has adopted a regulation, implementing the PCP in order to ensure that the ATM functionalities developed within the SESAR Research and Innovation exercises are deployed in a timely, coordinated and synchronized way. In particular, the i4D function and associated certified avionics systems will contribute to the PCP ATM Functionality #6 Initial Trajectory Information Sharing (towards i4D) planned for 2018-2020,” said Harquin. 

You can learn more about the concept of 4D Trajectory Management during the 4D Trajectories panel discussion at the upcoming 2015 Avionics for NextGen conference. Go to for more information.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox