Why Boeing and Airbus are Pushing for IPS

By Juliet Van Wagenen | June 20, 2016
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[Avionics Magazine 06-20-2016] Airbus and Boeing are both likely looking to include Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) as a line fit solution on their aircraft once standards for a new IP-based network infrastructure arise. While Airbus noted that its roadmap for the technology has not yet been defined, Boeing told Avionics Magazine that the company intends to provide IPS for forward fit on aircraft, although it will look to make any specific decisions after the standards mature. 
The Airbus A350 XWB cockpit. Photo: Airbus.
Both airframers are heavily involved in the standardization of the aircraft IPS, a new network infrastructure based on Internet Protocol (IP) that promises to use Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products to support air to ground aeronautical safety services communications. The system aims to use COTS infrastructure common to both Air Traffic Services (ATS) and Aeronautical Operational Communications (AOC) safety service applications to efficiently provide the robust network needed to support emerging and growing data link applications.
“IPS as a COTS technology basically offers more capabilities than a specific aeronautical technology, to provide a reliable and secure network infrastructure for connecting the aircraft with the ground in support of air traffic management and airline operations. This also requires advanced features like data security, mobility and quality of service management,” Luc Emberger, data link expert for aircraft communications at Airbus told Avionics Magazine.
The IPS is a new network infrastructure initially specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Doc. 9896 for safety services based on existing internet protocol. It aims to support the aviation-unique safety services currently utilizing the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) network and Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) infrastructure in a more cost-efficient and robust way.
“IPS will use multiple line-of-sight and Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) subnetworks that operate in ‘protected’ spectrum allocated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and ICAO for safety services, including Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, Iridium Certus, AeroMACS, future Satcom and L-band Digital Aeronautical Communication System (LDACS) systems, and possibly VHF Data Link (VDL) Mode 2. IPS will also provide backward compatibility with traditional ACARS ATS (e.g., Future Air Navigation System 1/A (FANS-1/A) and AOC (e.g., Aeronautcial Radio, Inc (ARINC) Characteristic-based 702A flight plans) as well as LINK2000+ (B1) and B2 applications, all without impacting the applications themselves,” Greg Saccone, research and technology senior systems engineer and associate technical fellow at Boeing, told Avionics Magazine. Boeing is currently working on IPS joint research activities to push standards forward alongside Honeywell, Inmarsat, SITA and Airtel. 
In using the IPS, Saccone says airlines will have better aircraft data communications performance, thus allowing them to reduce costs for current applications while providing the performance necessary for next generation broadband applications. Moreover, he believes its ability to provide backward compatibility with existing applications and ability to make use of BLOS and BLOS subnetworks will further increase effectiveness and applicability for AOC and ATS operations.
“Using the IPS will provide more bandwidth and capabilities for airframe manufacturers and avionics suppliers by moving them toward future datalink technologies,” said Saccone. “IPS protocols (IP, TCP, UDP and others) have been extensively tested in the commercial domain and are widely available for adaptation for aeronautical use. This will allow aviation to start to move away from purely aviation-unique protocols and take advantage of more modern, ubiquitous technology. Additionally, moving to IPS will simplify avionics by unifying the communication protocols from the current multi-stack architectures.”
This will also open the door to furthering NextGen and Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiatives, which, as the programs progress, exchanges more-and-more data between aircraft and ground systems. As current communication protocols don’t lend themselves well to broadband applications, IPS will accommodate current applications while providing a transition path to more data-intensive applications of the future. In Europe, these advantages are already taking hold for Airbus.
“In Europe, the first set of data link services (e.g. ATN B1) have been implemented using the ATN/OSI protocols defined in ICAO. Europe currently plans to leverage on this infrastructure for the introduction of the next-generation data link services (ATN/B2 applications) in support of ATM enhancements promoted by SESAR (e.g. 4D Trajectory exchanges),” said Emberger.
Despite the many advantages the airframers expect from IPS, as with any IP-based system, cybersecurity still the main barrier to widespread use and deployment.
“Cybersecurity is considered as one of the main challenges linked with the introduction of IPS for aeronautical safety services in the aircraft,” said Emberger. “Indeed, this will require implementing specific security measures beyond the Air Traffic Management/Control services, in order to protect the aircraft from external threats. The use of a solution based on COTS IP obviously raises many additional concerns and questions.”
Coming standardization activities and working groups are looking to investigate a number of potential cybersecurity mitigations, however. ICAO has started the Secure Dialog Service subgroup in order to provide application-level, network agnostic security solutions. Additionally, standards bodies such as the ARINC Industry Activities Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) Network Information Security group are working to ensure that requirements and lessons learned will be incorporated into IPS as appropriate. Saccone notes that Boeing also has a number of internal cybersecurity initiatives to investigate security aspects as related to aircraft that will be input to the IPS protocols.
As IPS progresses, it is important to note that the technology will not be deployed everywhere within the same timeframe. Still, standardization activities continue to move forward with flight trials of IPS over Very High Frequency Data Link Mode 2 (VDLM2) planned for later this summer, followed by more extensive satellite performance characterization. Boeing in particular is looking to expand its partnerships for additional research in IPS, as well as performing trade study research in areas like mobility, security and multiple link support as well as continue to support the IPS standardization activities, leveraging the results of the joint research programs.

“The standardization and validation of a new technology for supporting Safety services is a long lasting process, often 10 to 15 years for initial operation and longer for full deployment. We need to start this process now, in order to mature the technology against various use cases, and be ready to introduce it for these future ATS Datalink services, when next generation IP-native data link communication means (AeroMACS, LDACS, Future SATCOM) will arrive,” said Emberger. 

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