ATM Modernization

Space-based ADS-B is Coming to Eurocontrol’s Tactical Flow Management System

Eurocontrol is integrating Aireon's space-based ADS-B surveillance data into its enhanced tactical flow management system under a new 10-year agreement. Photo: Eurocontrol

Under a new 10-year agreement, Eurocontrol will integrate Aireon’s space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data into its enhanced tactical flow management (EFTMS) and a new system known as iNM that is currently in development.

Hosted on payloads within the Iridium NEXT 66-satellite constellation, Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system first went live in April 2019, and the company has since continued to pick up new surveillance data agreements with Brazil, Central America and India, along with air navigation service providers (ANSPs) in other regions.

By integrating space-based ADS-B into its ETFMS system, Eurocontrol will improve its trajectory predictions and ability to predict air traffic patterns and flows coming into and leaving European airspace.

“The next release of Eurocontrol’s enhanced tactical flow management system (ETFMS) will be amended to allow it to be able to use the standard Asterix Cat 21, a surveillance data format Aireon already provides," Jonathan Astill, Aireon’s vice president of air traffic flow management services, told Avionics International. "Now, when Aireon receives Eurocontrol data, Aireon is able to tailor the data feed to share only that data that relates to traffic destined to land within or fly over the European region."

Last year, Aireon became the first-ever company to be certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a provider of aircraft surveillance-as-a-service. That designation allows Aireon to provide space-based ADS-B surveillance for any European ANSP.

Once space-based ADS-B integration into EFTMS is complete, Eurocontrol will significantly improve its ability to see aircraft arriving, departing and crossing over Europe’s 4.4 million square miles of airspace. Eamon Brennan, director general of Eurocontrol, told Avionics that the biggest noticeable difference for their controllers and network planning efforts will be the ability to receive data from outside of their direct area of responsibility.

A graphic of Aireon's space-based ADS-B system. (Aireon)

A graphic of how Aireon's space-based ADS-B system works. Photo: Aireon

“The integration of space-based ADS-B data will maximize the predictability of traffic mainly in areas in the periphery of Europe," Brennan said. "Whereas the traffic predictability in the core areas of Europe is high, there is still a significant lack of predictability in the periphery, due to lack of accurate position data for the inbound traffic. This leads to reduced capacities in the peripheral centers as capacity buffers have to be maintained to cope with this uncertainty. The use of space-based ADS-B data over a large area including airspace outside Europe will improve traffic predictability, reduce uncertainty and consequently enhance traffic demand and slot allocation calculations."

Specific areas of Europe that will benefit from the increased surveillance data referenced by Brennan include Athens, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal and Warsaw, Poland among others. The biggest benefits to be realized by airspace users such as commercial airlines or military operators, according to Brennan, will be the ability for controllers to have more flexibility in accommodating schedule and flight plan changes when a crisis such as disruption of traffic awareness over a large area occurs.

Space-based ADS-B data will also be integrated into a new system called iNM, which Eurocontrol is developing to provide management of all future updates to its “operational systems and digital infrastructure.”

“The iNM is the new generation of the Network Manager systems,” Brennan said. “This is planned to be developed incrementally in the course of the next years. Integration of space-based ADS-B data in ETFMS is foreseen to take place in the course of 2020. The relevant iNM system functionality will be developed in parallel and will be in place later this decade, in a way which be transparent with regards to the operational use of the data.”

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