ATM Modernization, Embedded Avionics

Europe, US Making Progress on Air to Ground Data Comm Harmonization

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | October 3, 2016
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[Avionics Magazine 10-04-2016] Experts working on the harmonization of commercial air-to-ground aircraft data communications for operators flying between the U.S. and Europe presented some of the progress on their latest collaborative research work last week during the Avionics for NextGen 2016 conference. Leadership within the FAA and the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) discussed collaborative research currently underway that is focusing on introducing satellite services to support domestic Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) in the U.S. in Europe. Much of the research is also looking to take advantage of a standard currently being developed for the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS)
Marouan Chida, CNS & Avionics expert for SESAR JU, also spoke on a SESAR Plenary (pictured here) during Avionics for NextGen 2016. Photo: Vincent Lim.
During the Avionics for NextGen 2016 conference in Dulles, Virginia last week, Brent Philips, a senior systems engineer for the FAA and Marouan Chida, Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) and Avionics expert for SESAR JU, discussed some of the aircraft data link communications harmonization progress. 
"We’re really centering around three major principle elements, including: the applications, which are [Future Air Navigation System] FANS 1/A, B 1/A, and B2B; the networks, Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN), Open Systems Interconnect OSI, ATN Internet Protocol (IP), and the physical links which are like VDL, satcom systems and the Aeronautical Mobile Airports Communication System AeroMACS and the L-band Digital Aeronautical Communication System 
 (LDACS) systems," said Phillips. 
Chida and Phillips expect to have the air-to-ground data communications harmonization strategy finalized by the end of the year. 
Currently, an operator that flies between the European Union and U.S. and wants to use CPDLC in both airspaces as well as oceanic, must have avionics that are compatible with satcom and FANS 1/A over ACARS in the oceanic airspace, ATN VDL Mode 2 (VDLM2) for the European Link 2000+ program and FANS 1/A for the U.S. domestic Data Comm program — which is on schedule to reach 56 air traffic control towers by the end of 2016
Industry giants such as Boeing, Honeywell, Harris Corp., Rockwell Collins and several others, are also part of the collaborative work on the harmonization strategy. The researchers have categorized the future data communications harmonization strategy into near-term, mid-term and long-term applications, networks and physical links. In the near term, the strategy focuses on applications that use FANS 1/A. networks that use ACARS, and physical links that are VDLM2, and satcom class C. In the mid term, the strategy focuses on shifting to the introduction of B2B applications, IPS-capable networks and VDL Mode 2, and satcom class B physical links. 
Chida said SESAR JU is also considering the use of satcom capacity to supplement the current ground-based networks being used by the U.S. and Europe for domestic CPDLC. One such option to support this is Inmarsat's Swiftbroadband Safety (SBB-S) network. Hawaiian Airlines has already proved satcom-enabled CPDLC over Swiftbroadband in the oceanic environment as a viable option with Cobham’s Aviator S technology.
"You will see that there is a component in the three areas, which is satcom. Today, on the majority of long-haul flights, the aircraft is equipped with satcom. Our challenge is that if we can make sure these flights that fly in different regions have a satcom solution that allows for multi-regional equipment without seamless flight that would be a great win for this type of harmonization," said Chida. 
Phillips also noted that the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) for aeronautical safety services is a focus for future harmonization. Both Airbus and Boeing are members of the Airline Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) that is currently working on defining IPS for Aeronautical Safety Services, including airborne, ground-based and space-based communication systems, coordinating with aviation Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and others. Specifically, the AEEC has tasked the IPS Subcommittee with preparing a detailed technical definition of IPS for aeronautical safety services in a new ARINC Standard.
"What we do want to do is take advantage of IPS, that’s something that Boeing is pushing, the FAA is pushing, and that’s where a little bit of the harmonization issue resides currently. But recognizing that the benefits provided by IPS include security, improved routing and faster message sets, we see that as our next step. And that is where we are going as far as supporting the satcom systems and the VDL Mode 2 systems," said Phillips.

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