ATM Modernization

NATS, Lockheed Martin Collaborate on SESAR Technology

By Juliet Van Wagenen | February 23, 2016
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[Avionics Today 02-23-2016] NATS, the United Kingdom’s Air Navigation Surveillance Provider (ANSP), is relying on partnerships with companies across the aviation supply chain to implement its Air Traffic Management (ATM) modernization Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiatives. Most recently, NATS chose Lockheed Martin as its systems integration partner to look at the next five years of SESAR technology for an $850 million project that aims to transform the technology that manages flight operations in the U.K. airspace.
NATS Prestwick operations room
NATS Prestwick operations room, which will see the integration of new SESAR technologies in the next five years alongside systems integration partner Lockheed Martin. Photo: NATS
“The role of Lockheed Martin as the integration partner is to translate NATS’ operational roadmap into a series of deliverable technological steps that will transition them from today's systems and ways of working to one that is built on a modern service-based approach and SESAR compliant,” James Williamson, director of transport at Lockheed Martin, told Avionics Magazine. Under the terms of the initial contract, NATS and Lockheed Martin will work together as well as with other suppliers under a collaborative framework that follows BS11000 principles and in an integrated team to introduce and implement SESAR technologies.
“Significant focus is on developing the technical architecture, technical service specifications, integration of services, and verification of the future systems into operation,” Williamson added. “This will be underpinned through introduction of modern architecture and systems engineering approaches, such as model-based system engineering and automated test.”
Tim Bullock, NATS director of supply chain, notes that with such a large project, the ANSP could not be successful in its endeavour to modernize the ATM system without partnering with companies and building a robust and multi-party supply chain. Most recently, NATS has successfully seen the integration of Time-Based Separation (TBS) at Swanwick for Heathrow airport for arriving flights working with partners such as Lockheed in its supply chain to implement the technology.
In the short term, the companies will focus on its interoperability Through European Collaboration (iTEC) system — NATS’ new flight data processing system — as it enters limited operational service for Prestwick upper airspace, a process that began at the end of January. To implement the technology, NATS worked alongside industry partner Indra and the ANSPs of Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands.
“In the future, iTEC will be integrated with our current tool iFACTS to fundamentally change how we manage aircraft by reducing controller workload, increasing airspace capacity and improving safety by automatically detecting potential aircraft conflicts ahead of time,” Bullock said. “It will also help our airline customers save fuel and emissions via the introduction of free route airspace and 4-D trajectories.” 
iTEC also provides advanced flight data processing and Controller Working Position (CWP) under a System Wide Information Management (SWIM)-capable architecture to improve flow of information among control centers and airports. The system will enter full operational service for Prestwick upper airspace in the early summer and will roll out across NATS over the coming years to become the bedrock of the ANSP’s operation.
“For all iTEC deployments across NATS, Indra will be working with Lockheed Martin as the system integrator to ensure a safe and smooth transition,” Bullock added.
In the longer term, NATS and partners will look to implement Service Orientated Architecture Enterprise Integration Service (EIS), which will bring the SWIM concept to the heart of the NATS operational platform, allowing it to share information between stakeholders both internal and external to the ANSP’s systems in real time.
Lastly, NATS and Lockheed Martin will be working to replace the current voice communication system used in NATS’ operation rooms with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, a more flexible communication system used by air traffic controllers to communicate with each other and with pilots. It will also align the ATM technology with that of the underlying national networks, an effort that aims to improve performance and lower costs.
Bullock insists that the successful implementation of SESAR technology will rely on partnerships with systems integrators as the ANSP looks to bring ATM modernization to life.
“Partnerships and collaboration is at the very heart of what SESAR is all about. And achieving the aims of SESAR will only ever be achieved by working together, whether that’s with our suppliers like Lockheed Martin, with other ANSPs, or with our airline and airport customers,” said Bullock. “In fact, all of the suppliers who are working with us on this project are doing so under a master service agreement that explicitly promotes collaboration, even between companies that might otherwise be competitors.”

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