Collins  Aerospace  to  Acquire  FlightAware

Collins Aerospace  has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately held FlightAware, a leading digital aviation company providing global flight tracking solutions, predictive technology, analytics and decision-making tools.  

Closure of the acquisition is subject to the completion of customary conditions and regulatory approvals. Following closing, FlightAware will join Collins’ Information Management Services portfolio within the company’s Avionics strategic business unit. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. 

“Global connectivity now shapes and impacts every segment of aviation. FlightAware is the recognized leader in data collection, analytics and customer experience, which will help Collins unlock the full power of the connected ecosystem for our customers,” said Dave Nieuwsma, Collins Aerospace’s head of Avionics. “FlightAware’s flight tracking and data platform, the largest in the world, has the potential to deliver new capabilities and innovations across our entire business.”  

“The world’s aerospace companies and aircraft operators are looking to digital aviation to provide the next revolution in aviation efficiency and reliability,” said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, “and we are excited to join Collins Aerospace and Raytheon Technologies at this pivotal time to continue to lead that revolution at an even broader scale.”  

ERAU to Advance Aviation Cybersecurity, Backed by $1 Million Federal Grant

ERAU to Advance Aviation Cybersecurity, Backed by $1 Million Federal Grant

Electrical engineering and computer science students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are delivering on a $1,070,000 federally funded project to improve the cybersecurity of wireless aviation communication systems, according to the project’s lead investigator, Dr. Radu Babiceanu.

“These wireless data links should be designed and operated with the required cybersecurity protection,” said Babiceanu, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “This project builds a software tool and a hardware testbed to analyze and improve the cybersecurity protection of these communication pathways.”

Fifteen students — four who are pursuing doctoral degrees, seven master’s students and four undergraduates — have been working on the project alongside faculty experts and engineers. The students are involved in all aspects of the work, from design to client presentations.

“It definitely is a great project-leading and management opportunity to improve our skills,” said one of the doctoral students. The student added that wireless exchange of aviation data has been advancing quickly, but with that progress, “these tools are also contributing to the vulnerabilities and risk of these data links. That is why this project takes into account the safety procedures and systems that will need to be procured to ensure the cybersecurity protection of these sensitive data links.”

Another student said that “aviation cybersecurity is one of the most prominent fields of security and aerospace engineering, and there is still a lot to be done by the research community.”

“What we need to do is come up with a software tool that is able to basically be plugged in and say, this is your new system for determining the risk posed by any type of cybersecurity threats on these types of data links,” Babiceanu said.

Dr. Maj Mirmirani, a mechanical engineering professor and dean of the College of Engineering, emphasized the importance of the project and its suitability for Embry-Riddle.

“Wireless transmission of data is ubiquitous in today’s modern aircraft — for flight control, navigation, avionics, health monitoring, communication and onboard entertainment systems — and presents new risks and vulnerabilities,” Mirmirani said. “Our faculty and students are perfectly positioned to lead in this critical area of research.”

The project represents the first of a five-year aviation cybersecurity collaboration between Embry-Riddle and federal authorities. Next year’s project will target navigation technologies that have been identified as a national priority, using technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the cybersecurity of air travel, Babiceanu said.

GE Digital Announces Collaboration with Varon Vehicles to Create Future of Flight Connected Ecosystem

GE Digital Announces Collaboration with Varon Vehicles to Create Future of Flight Connected Ecosystem

GE Digital signed a memo of understanding to collaborate with Varon Vehicles on the development of a solution for airspace efficiency, safety and predictive maintenance. This partnership builds on GE Digital’s work in analytics software to produce a solution to facilitate better routing operations in Latin America, starting in Colombia.

Varon Vehicles is developing an Urban Air Mobility transportation system with new enabling technologies using currently untapped airspaces in a confined and safe way. It consists of a series of Vertiports connected to each other via well-defined low altitude virtual lanes through which the company’s air vehicles will fly, without adding a burden on Air Traffic Control or mixing with traditional aviation. Varon Vehicles’ plan is to place their Vertiports both inside and outside existing urban structures to alleviate the pressure for city growth. They will provide transportation services to the logistics, tourism and medical markets and customers like governments and ride hailing companies for air taxi services, all without the need for physical construction. This project will initially target the cargo transportation and tourism markets.

“With plans for introduction of Urban Air Mobility operations in major cities, digital tools and systems will be needed to connect and monitor electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) in confined and controlled airspaces,” said Felipe Varon, CEO and founder of Varon Vehicles.

The collaborative solution will leverage Varon Vehicles’ new Urban Air Mobility system to create a connected ecosystem that addresses operational efficiencies while ensuring safe operations of this new form of urban and sub-urban aviation.

“Varon Vehicles is a great example of moving the industry forward as we all return to flight,” said Andrew Coleman, general manager of GE Digital’s Aviation Software business. “Sustainability is in their DNA with their focus on electric vehicles and we look forward to working with them on this ambitious project.”

Aerospace Cyber Threats Grow With Increased Connectivity

Aerospace Cyber Threats Grow With Increased Connectivity

Today’s aircraft are increasingly connected – from passenger inflight entertainment systems through to flight deck and avionics connectivity and yet, as more and more data is being generated, transporting that to and from the aircraft expediently and securely to its destination is becoming increasingly important.

Sensitivity over data security has increased in the United States over recent months following the attack on Colonial Pipeline which carries gasoline and jet fuel from Texas up the East Coast to New York. While the company was not specific with the details, the White House and FBI disclosed it was due to a ransomware attack, in which criminal groups hold data hostage until the victim pays a ransom. This breach has heightened fears over the vulnerability of not only the nation’s energy infrastructure to cyber-attacks but the transportation sector too especially as the national aviation system starts to ramp up operations as the pandemic’s impact is harnessed.

In a June 2 open letter to corporate executives and business leaders the White House deputy national security advisor for cyber and emergency technology, appealed for business leaders to view ransomware not as a data theft problem, but rather as a threat to their core business – with the ability to halt operations and cut off the company’s revenue stream.

Florent Rizzo CEO, CyberInflight
Florent Rizzo
CEO, CyberInflight

And it is by no means a national weakness. Florent Rizzo of the Toulouse, France-based CyberInflight intelligence consultancy points to the latest European statistics on the aviation cyber threat. The EATM-CERT (European Air Traffic Management Computer Emergency Response Team) which supports Europe’s air navigation safety agency EUROCONTROL as well as European air traffic management stakeholders in protecting themselves against cyber threats, demonstrates an ever-present danger.

Based on its research, the number of publicly known cyber-attacks on airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and other aviation stakeholders in 2019 was estimated to be below 100. Worryingly, a July 2021 report from the EATM-CERT clearly highlights the concern with cyber-attacks rising by 530 per cent between 2019 and 2020, with ‘startling impacts across market segments’.

Within that threat environment however, the proliferation of ransomware activities during 2020 is evident. In France for example, ANSSI which is the country’s national security agency, documented a threefold increase in the annual number of reported incidents from 54 in 2019 to 192 in 2020.

Industrial Insight

Regine Bonneau is CEO and founder of Winter Park, Florida-based RB Advisory, a security compliance and cyber risk management solutions expert that serves a client rollcall featuring many businesses that support the US Department of Defense. She believes that cyber security will only become more of a critical issue for businesses that have to convert the value of the data they collect to make it a meaningful business tool such as airlines. She warns however that those who fail to realize the critical value of data effectively leave the door wide open to attacks because a malicious cyber enemy will never be slow to spot and exploit your failure here.

Regine Bonneau CEO, RB Advisory
Regine Bonneau
CEO, RB Advisory

Bonneau chronicles the key moment data became a critical element in the cyber security landscape. She says it started simply enough with the development of industry marketing platforms which started converting the customer contact rolodex into electronic databases that supported automated email and call targeting campaigns. And while those data driven analytics are now crucial to driving a business’s profitability, they also potentially have become its weakest link.

The Aerospace Industry Association (AIA) is working to increase the awareness regarding the regulations and standards of aviation systems with its published industry assessment and recommendations establishing cyber security standards for avionic systems.
The Aerospace Industry Association (AIA) is working to increase the awareness regarding the regulations and standards of aviation systems with its published industry assessment and recommendations establishing cyber security standards for avionic systems.

Bonneau advises that the first step is to classify exactly what data you as a business are collecting and its importance in terms of value and usability. “Really scrutinize your business and ask yourself, who has access to these data collections. Ask yourself who are they and why are they using this data.” Continuous monitoring is required here — and not only within your own organization but without too so considerations about a business’s supply chain will immediately come to bear. “If you don’t control who has access to your customer information, you are potentially handing over admin rights to your data,” Bonneau says. “Key to your approach should be control of your data outside your own organization to your supplier because that extension of you as a business represents your biggest risk.”

Then, Bonneau says, a business would be wise to look at what it collects in terms of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which deals with any sort of sensitive information associated with a specific person, which can be used to identify or locate that individual.

“This is at the top of the value pyramid but do you have the technology to identify where this data is and how it can be encrypted? Can you ensure industry-standard ‘data privacy by design’ which is conducted through a close assessment of the sort of data that is being collected?” Bonneau asks.

Solutions: Digital Certificates

One facet of the aviation cybersecurity effort is the use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which uses digital certificates for authentication, integrity, and encryption. Industry standards such as ARINC 842 and ATA Spec 42 provide guidance for securing digital assets in the aviation industry using PKI. Teledyne Controls, which was the first to introduce in the late 1990s wireless technology as a viable means to securely and automatically transfer large volumes of data between the aircraft and the airline’s ground network, has over two decades of experience in securing the delivery of its customers’ data to its final destination. The company’s popular Teledyne GroundLink Comm+ system, which is in service on over 10,000 aircraft worldwide, uses IPSec VPNs to provide secure transport for data from the aircraft to the ground and vice versa use ATA Spec 42-compliant digital certificates to provide authenticity, confidentiality, and integrity. Flight data payloads are encrypted to ensure confidentiality for data at rest. The IPSec VPN tunnels also protect data that is uploaded — for example with Teledyne groundlink dataloading, loadable software parts, navigation databases and application updates that are wirelessly distributed to the aircraft’s onboard data loaders, are protected. The GroundLink Comm+ also serves as an aircraft interface device (AID), enabling flight deck connectivity for Electronic Flight Bags while digital certificates are also employed to ensure only authenticated devices can connect to the AID.

Solutions: Business Aviation Monitoring

The significance of cyber security for the owners and operators of corporate business jets is acute. Josh Wheeler, director of customer services at Satcom Direct, a business which is a leader in cyber security support for aviation. Its ecosystem is built on an open architecture platform which means third party providers can plug into the SD Pro digital dashboard to help customers manage data transmission from third party organizations through a single platform.

SD is an ISP in its own right so can provide services that ensure data never touches the public network and combines technology with best-in-class cyber security expertise to help create a virtual flying office supported by a whole set of experts monitoring for abnormal data patterns in addition to a SD Incident Response Team. Should SD’s system flag a critical breach it automatically blocks the data transmission and the flight department will be called to take care of the device in question

“Five years ago, we spotted the vulnerability of high-speed data systems but the industry was not really aware of their security weakness. Hackers, after all, don’t understand that it is a corporate jet, they just see an IP address,” says Wheeler who explains that SD conducted a study before launching the service after being shocked to find highly valuable corporate data could be so easily accessed. “The more data you use,” he says, “the more vulnerable you are, and the most secure aircraft is the one that stays on the ground, offline. Altitude does not make you safe because if you can get on to the internet, cyber attackers can get to you.”

What the core SD cyber service actually is, is a series of firewalls and sophisticated tools, combined with human cyber expertise, to monitor data streams. SD also plans to launch in the third quarter of this year a service called Advanced Encryption which is purpose built for business aviation to further strengthen data security, offering a protective defense layer that essentially cloaks the entire aircraft network without compromising speed or performance. Using proprietary technology, it optimizes a secure accelerated tunnel through which encrypted anonymized data passes from the aircraft to the ground network and back – dispensing with the need for VPN on personal digital devices.

Some threats the company CybelAngel has exposed as vulnerable are areas of airport security, details of air marshal identity and assigned flights, security badge design templates that could be easily duplicated by bad actors and critical infrastructure plans showing aviation fuel supply routes, among others.
Some threats the company CybelAngel has exposed as vulnerable are areas of airport security, details of air marshal identity and assigned flights, security badge design templates that could be easily duplicated by bad actors and critical infrastructure plans showing aviation fuel supply routes, among others.

SD offering essentially centres on stackable, tailored services on a turnkey availability basis and this has been driven by charter outfits that do not have a big corporate backbone but who wish to ensure secure and completely anonymous communications for their customers. That’s not surprising since the industry is witnessing an explosion in ransomware attacks which have bypassed security protocols with a lot more breaches via mobile phones rather than laptops.

Solutions: Scanning for Visibility

Todd Carroll is chief information security officer with Paris, France-based CybelAngel which has developed a digital risk protection platform that constantly scans for keywords on behalf of its clients using Machine Learning techniques.

CybelAngel’s platform has the ability to process data gleaned from billions of documents readily accessible on the internet. Carroll recounts how one of its aerospace engineering manufacturing clients was developing a brand-new turboprop engine and was using a Taiwanese manufacturer to make the mounting components to attach the engine on to the wing which meant it had to send detailed drawings over the internet.

As part of a routine security protocol requested by the business, CybelAngel’s scanning technology revealed how the engine manufacturer’s confidential designs were wide open to public scrutiny. Carroll says he has been amazed at the things his business has also exposed as vulnerable in the areas of airport security such as details of air marshal identity and assigned flights, security badge design templates that could be easily duplicated by bad actors and critical infrastructure plans showing aviation fuel supply routes.

Todd Carroll CIO, CybelAngel
Todd Carroll
CIO, CybelAngel

Collaborative Approach

CyberInflight’s Rizzo says that not only have companies become better at detection since 2019 but also the information sharing landscape has evolved positively with Information sharing not only increasingly accepted but also seen as an important mean of improving the resilience among aerospace stakeholders.

He cites the increasing participation of more and more stakeholders in information sharing communities such as the Aviation ISAC, the Space ISAC and Boost Aerospace in Europe. A series of events has also shown an increasing interest from the aviation industry for onboard cyber security. In August 2019, the DEFCON conference held its first Aviation Village event which gathers aviation and security experts, government agencies and industry leaders. Here the US Air Force (USAF) allowed a small team of pre-selected security researchers to perform tests on the data transfer system of an F-15 military jet and was sufficiently convinced by the results to renew its presence with a different challenge every year.

For the 2020 event, the USAF and the Department of Defense gathered more than 1,300 researchers and hackers and set them the task of penetrating an actual satellite orbiting around earth. The popularity of this collaborative approach seems to be spreading with the link between cyber security researchers and the industry becoming stronger through the use of more vulnerability disclosure programs such as those launched by Boeing and Thales. “It is now easier for cyber security researchers to find this process on the internet; clear guidelines are given to researchers with a step-by-step process to follow and with a dedicated email address,” says Rizzo.

Various international institutions and associations such as the AIA, the Aerospace Industry Association, are also working to increase the awareness regarding the regulations and standards of aviation systems with its published industry assessment and recommendations establishing cyber security regulations and standards for avionic systems in which it recommends that the next revision of ARINC 628 incorporates security appropriately in particular for IFE interface systems.

In July 2020, EASA which is ensuring safety and security in civil aviation in Europe also amended rules related to the product certification to mitigate the potential effects of cyber security threats to reflect the state of the art of the protection of products and equipment against cyber security threats.

Independent cyber security consultant Rob Hill is a passionate evangelist for aviation cyber security. He salutes these first invitations from the primes to invite the research community to collaborate. “

All the many teams of engineers that work on cyber security are highly competent but they just do not share, they need to be telling everyone where the weakest point could be,” he says. “The risk level is higher in aviation simply because no one talks about cyber security and there are no open conversations as a result. When do we change…when the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of doing anything?”

Hill says the single most important action by the industry should be to get the word out that avionics need to be monitored and protected from possible intrusion. “Most aircraft operators and owners are not monitoring systems now because there has been no ability to monitor avionics or cabin WIFI on board the aircraft,” he says, “but that issue has been resolved and now the equipment and services to proactively monitor and thwart attacks on avionics and cabin WIFI are readily available.”

He believes the greatest concern and one that is frequently overlooked is the role of the honest mistake by an employee or vendor and when it is a matter of business jet clientele that simple mistake can cost big time. “Around 86 per cent of attacks that occur are financially motivated and let’s face it, a business jet is the biggest billboard going and you only have to give me five minutes and I’ll work out who is using the aircraft.”

For Hill the perfect safety net is having an onboard firewall which does two things – monitors cabin wifi plus 429 Bus monitoring – the avionics data feed “That’s got to be the gold standard,” he says. He does not however discount that there are bad actors working within aviation in charge of avionics upgrades who have all the certifications and authorizations to access aircraft avionics systems although judges the chances of any attack being perpetrated remotely slim. “It is the employee mistakenly uploading or opening a file that can bridge the aircraft’s avionics which is very real,” he says.

Hill touts another alarming statistic – the fact that it takes between six – 18 months before a breach is noticed and points as best practitioners those businesses in the IT and pharma industries as they truly understand what they need to protect in terms of data assets. “It is the mid-size business jet operator with small IT teams which are the most vulnerable,” Hill says, adding that he has seen flight departments of up to 100 people which are still far from perfect in terms of cyber security protocols.

“The worse thing for business jet cyber security is the surprise visitor into the cabin – often a celebrity’s friends and even children of the aircraft owner. Let’s face it, there is a lot of bad stuff on children’s gaming sites. They’re often not all that they seem and hackers will target children to get malware into the system. Invariably, the point of entry is human.”

He suspects that across many Fortune 500 businesses, there is a culture of acceptance as some of the weaknesses that cyber attacks lay bare are just too expensive to fix and it is cheaper to pay the ransom.

Data sharing concerns

Strengthening security measures does come with challenges, and in many cases requires increasing cooperation between various organizational departments. For example, while the data itself may be used by the flight operations or maintenance engineering departments, securing the data may be the responsibility of the IT/infrastructure departments. Use of PKI also comes with the additional overhead of digital certificate management although here, Teledyne Controls says it provides support for its products to customers who wish to enable the connectivity of their fleets while operating them securely.

Another challenge worth mentioning is data ownership. OEMs want data from the airlines, but airlines as the data owners may only want to share with them the relevant data. Teledyne’s Data Delivery Solution (DDS) addresses this issue by providing the means for airlines to control what data can be distributed to OEMs for prognostics, maintenance, health management, etc. As a fully managed cloud-based service, DDS quickly establishes automatic flows of airline-owned full series data directly from the aircraft into the OEMs data platforms. The airlines retain full control over the sharing of their data by selecting what data parameters lists they agree to share with what data consumer.

Upgrade/Test Considerations

Another challenge that the industry faces is patch management. Vulnerabilities are being discovered at an ever-increasing rate. However, hardware and software installed on aircraft must go through a certification process and cannot easily be updated in an expedient manner in the same way that ground-based systems can be. As Rob Hill points out, a comprehensive penetration test to ascertain whether systems are sufficiently robust could even render the warranties and certification of some aircraft systems void. There is increasing acknowledgement that airlines, OEMs, and suppliers now need to work with regulators (FAA, EASA, etc.) in order to establish requirements and guidelines for ensuring the continued security of connected aircraft.

This issue of baked-in compliance for Bonneau is important as the weakest links can often be found within the older venerable names in the aviation manufacturing and operational landscape as their older legacy systems are frequently just not equipped to deal with the infuriating litheness of today’s cyber threat environment. “It’s not really about the technology it’s about compliance. The thing you need to ask yourself is,” Bonneau says, “have you driven your security approach to the end point in all the layers yourself and have you incentivized your supply chain to do the same?”

Once this process is complete, a business then needs to examine its resilience. Here, it is not a question of when, but a question of how, Bonneau says: “Ask yourself, what do I have in place to contain an attack and how quickly can I re-establish the business?”

All this requires continuous security assessment. There also has to be a frank acknowledgement that a business will never be 100 per cent protected and for Bonneau, it’s all about layers, about being prepared and ready at all levels with that layering of maturity applying equally to your sub-contractors. It’s a case of “we learn, we assess our status, we understand the gaps and we work towards a future goal – and this is a continuous process.”

CybelAngel’s Todd Carroll echoes this, recommending that businesses ensure that vendor and suppliers contracts are watertight. “It has to be a case of continuous and layered monitoring. You need to know where your critical data could be potentially exposed leaving your business vulnerable. Essentially, you need to be proactive here or else someone will steal your R&D. Ask yourself, ‘who are your cyber security suppliers? are they the ones you have had for decades and you must ask yourself, are they still up to the job? You need to put resources into this, conduct an RFP on today’s requirement, and really ask yourself, do your existing suppliers meet the challenge?”

Panasonic Avionics and GigSky Partner to Upgrade In-Flight Mobile Connectivity

Panasonic Avionics is enhancing its in-flight mobile connectivity offering through a strategic partnership with GigSky, a global mobility provider based in Silicon Valley, California.

The partnership between Panasonic Avionics, its subsidiary AeroMobile and GigSky enables any eSIM-equipped mobile phone user to enjoy their in-flight mobile connectivity service—regardless of network operator—on selected airlines and flights. By downloading the award-winning GigSky app prior to departure, passengers can effortlessly pay for and access a daily connectivity pass.

“Digital innovation is at the forefront of everything we do at Panasonic Avionics. Our collaboration with GigSky marks our first eSIM partnership and enables us to enhance and bring more choice to the passenger experience,” said Kevin Rogers, senior director, Mobile Services at Panasonic Avionics. “With GigSky’s support of our mobile services platform, passengers can connect their mobile phones across the globe regardless of which network provider they are with, replicating on-the-ground integrated connectivity in the skies.”

Ravi Rishy-Maharaj, founder and CEO at GigSky, added, “We are thrilled to partner with Panasonic Avionics to bring a first-of-its-kind service to airlines and passengers. Through the GigSky app, we now offer data services in the air, land, and sea with our partners. With the addition of an inflight plan, customers can stay connected at their destination–and in between destinations–truly enabling an always-online, always-connected experience, anywhere they go.”

Teledyne Controls’ Aircraft Cabin Environment Sensor Now Certified for A320

Teledyne Controls has obtained FAA Supplemental Type Certification (STC) approval for installation of its Aircraft Cabin Environment Sensor (ACES) on the Airbus A320 aircraft series. Teledyne ACES is an autonomous solution that enables air transport operators to monitor, measure and analyze air quality in the cabin and flight deck to help them ensure a safe and positive flying experience for passengers and crew.  ACES was recently certified for the Boeing 737 aircraft and certification for other aircraft types is in progress.

“Never before has monitoring air quality been more important.  Unexpected smoke, odor or fume events can result in cancelled flights, expensive maintenance costs and potential health risks to passengers and crew. Although air quality monitoring solutions are available for homes, offices, and industrial areas, there is no automatic equipment installed on board most aircraft today,” explained George Bobb, vice president of Teledyne Technologies and Segment president, Teledyne Aerospace and Defense Electronics. “Having ACES certified for both the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737 aircraft is a significant step forward. It gives airline executives, engineering, and maintenance teams the ability to monitor cabin air quality on a large portion of the world’s aircraft flying today with a solution ready to deploy.” 

With wireless connectivity to a secure cloud service portal, Teledyne ACES laboratory-grade sensor technology continuously monitors and records the air quality in the cabin and flight deck for potentially harmful contaminants. The air quality data collected during flight is available in real‑time on any mobile device through the ACES mobile app, and via secure web access to the ACES Cloud Service Portal, which provides configurable dashboards, custom alerts, and comprehensive reports that enable the operator to validate the air quality in the airplane, identify emerging issues and document maintenance efforts.

Teledyne ACES was specifically designed for the aviation industry. The company says it combines their “expertise in air quality and gas monitoring, along with decades of experience in designing, manufacturing, and certifying aircraft data management and connectivity systems.”

ACR Electronics Introduces Bivy Stick Satellite Communication Device and App at AirVenture Oshkosh

Safety and survival specialist ACR Electronics is introducing the world’s smallest and most simple satellite communication device to the aviation market – the ACR Bivy Stick two-way satellite messenger and app and will be displaying it at AirVenture in OshKosh, Wisc. this week.

The new ACR Bivy Stick offers an innovative and affordable option for sending SMS messages, tracking and sharing location information, accessing GPS maps, viewing live weather forecasts and initiating a distress call in an emergency.

A subscription-based solution, the ACR device weighs 100g and works with a user’s smartphone, offering an efficient way for a variety of general aviation users to communicate and keep loved ones updated when in the air.

Anyone using the ACR Bivy Stick can also be reassured they have the back-up of the high-quality customer support network of renowned technology specialist ACR Electronics, a supplier of ground-breaking emergency beacons and life-saving equipment for over 60 years.

The device can be used in conjunction with the full-featured ACR Bivy app, which identifies and collates the crowd sourced details and locations of adventures experienced by the growing Bivy community.

Working anywhere with a view of the sky with 100 percent global satellite coverage, the 4.5 x 1.8-inch ACR Bivy Stick is ideal for a range of aviators and outdoor adventurers. It features a high-power antenna for reliable connectivity and frequent use, with two-way text satellite communication enabling the user to send text messages to phone numbers or email addresses, as well as share and track location.

The company says it is designed to provide the full range of benefits when paired with a smartphone and also includes a dedicated check-in button for updating friends and family with a preset message at a specific location. There is an SOS button to contact rescue services in an emergency, with SOS also available through the app. As a free option, ACR Bivy members are provided with the communication to Global Rescue, an industry leader, providing 24/7/365 medical, security, evacuation, travel risk and crisis management services to travelers around the world. ACR Bivy members in need of help in an emergency can reach Global Rescue through their device and receive assistance or evacuation. Users can sign up for Global Rescue insurance to cover any associated costs.

The ACR Bivy Stick offers a more flexible pricing structure than similar products, allowing users to pay for only the months they use the device, with no annual contract or activation fee required. The easiest option is an unlimited fee of $49.99 per month. There are also two different Credit plans: 20 Credits for $18 per month or 100 Credits for $40 per month. The Credits do not expire, so they can be saved for times of high outdoor activity. One Credit is the equivalent to one SMS message, one tracking interval, one location request, or one basic weather report, while SOS and preset messages are unlimited.

The ACR Bivy Stick is available for a retail price of $349.95.

FlightAware Targets Piston Airplane Pilot Market with Launch of Aviator

FlightAware, the largest global provider of flight information and actionable aviation intelligence, announced the launch of Aviator, the ultimate flight tracking suite for piston airplane pilots and operators.

FlightAware’s Aviator is an inexpensive subscription-based software, accessible via the web and iOS. Any subscriber can register multiple aircraft, including rentals, and unlock indispensable features like Ready To Taxi, Premium Weather and Map Layers, Surface Visualizations, FBO Scheduling, and ETAs automatically updated via FlightAware’s powerful machine predictive technology, Foresight.

“Aviator was created by FlightAware pilots to share advanced flight tracking features with other piston airplane pilots. Over the years we’ve gone from flight tracking to becoming the central data hub for both the business and commercial aviation industries. With Aviator, we’re bringing a product with robust tools and processes developed for the most sophisticated flight departments and commercial airlines, right to the GA pilot.” said Daniel Baker, FlightAware CEO.

With Aviator, family, friends, and FBOs can receive alerts from preflight and taxi out, through landing and taxi in. Communications are coordinated as stakeholders stay informed. From surface visualizations displaying taxiing planes and surface movements to comprehensive airborne flight tracks, Aviator also provides monthly history reports for pilots and operators to review critical flight details.

TNO and Celestia STS Sign Agreement to Commercialize Optical Modem

The availability of optical modem technology (optical digital converter aka ODC) for the market has taken a major step forwards with the signing of an agreement between TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, and Celestia STS for an IP licence agreement to commercialize Optical Modems.

The commercialization of optical modem technology will contribute greatly to enabling secure high speed broadband connectivity and increase communication efficiency on a large scale, the companies say. This will address the growing demand for data in society as well as ensure the exchange of enormous amounts of data needed for space missions.  

Optical Modem Technology
The optical modem provides reception and processing functionality of digital bitstreams output by optical detectors. It is capable of receiving data rates of up to 10Gbps.The optical modem is ideal for low-latency, high throughput optical communication in ground stations and experimental set-ups. The modem provides electrical, data extraction, protocol/data handling, error correction and status annotation functions. The recovered data is offloaded from the modem using a dedicated 10Gbit TCP/IP streaming interface to a commercial server platform for data storage and further processing. 

Long-term cooperation
The agreement comes after three years of collaboration between TNO and Noordwijk-based Celestia STS, specialists in ground-based solutions for satellite testing, communications and data processing. The ambitious optical modem project was initiated in September 2018, when Celestia STS joined a TNO-led consortium to design, build and test a gigabit-class optical ground station capable of offering broadband speeds of up to 10Gbps. Celestia used its extensive track record in designing and building state-of-the-art EGSE (Electrical Ground Support Equipment) and modem solutions to develop an Optical Digital Converter for use in free-space optical terminals and optical ground stations as well as in experimental set-ups for optical communication.

It also partnered with TNO R&D teams to develop the technology to produce an Optical Modem based on an O3K demodulation scheme, with firmware based processing, high speed digital signal input and data rates of up to 10Gbps.

This will now move forward to full production and commercialisation by Celestia STS, using the jointly developed technology, offering a powerful solution for the telecoms market, ground station operators looking to build new optical ground stations and companies developing ambitious new business models based on optical technologies.

Partners in the agreement

“I’m very glad we can continue our trusted relationship with Celestia STS and bring Optical Modem technology to the market together. This is an important step in our mission to support Dutch industry in taking a strong position in the growing market for free space optical communication equipment,” says Erik Fritz, program manager at TNO.

“It has been fantastic to have been involved in such a successful collaboration with TNO and to be in a position where we will shortly see the fruits of the ground-breaking work we have been doing with them,” says Dougie Johnman, COO of Celestia STS. “Our plans to commercialize the technology, build and launch a robust optical modem offering are very well advanced and it will be soon that we see this product reach the market. This plays to our strengths in every way; we have extensive know-how and production capability that leave us ideally placed to build a commercially viable product and be one of the first movers in the market in a technology that offers a very big step forwards for so many players” he says.

Adacel and Fiji Airports Commission New Aurora ATM for En Route and Tower Control

Adacel along with Fiji Airports, commissioned the new Aurora Air Traffic Management (ATM) for surveillance control in Fiji’s domestic airspace. The new Aurora ATM system integrates oceanic, approach, and tower control capabilities and includes a new simulator to train air traffic controllers in an ADS-B surveillance environment.

“Fiji Airports has been our customer for over a decade now, and we value the team’s commitment to this significant project. Deploying a new system with major new capabilities is a challenge on its own; successfully implementing it during a global pandemic is absolutely remarkable,” shares Daniel Verret, Adacel’s CEO. “I could not be prouder of the impressive teamwork and close collaboration between Adacel and Fiji Airports to ensure the success of this mission,” continued Verret.

The new Aurora integrates its industry-leading procedural airspace management with the functionalities and tools needed to manage traffic in a surveillance environment.

“It is a significant milestone for Fiji Airports to make this historic ATM transition during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there was great pressure and valid need to cut costs across most entities in the aviation industry, Fiji Airports persevered with our previous commitment to continue personnel training and upskilling of our people through the implementation of the new Aurora ATM System,” said Fiji Airports chairman, Geoffrey Shaw.

Unique 4D-profile conflict detection capabilities combined with progressive surveillance-data safety nets ensure system safety. Tower controller working positions are fully integrated into the system and provide optimized electronic flight strips for multiple users. “This modernizes our ATM system and provides air traffic controllers with the latest ATM technology including electronic flight strips, advanced flight and surveillance data processing and training capabilities. It is one of the world’s best ATM systems for managing procedural control in Oceanic Airspace integrated with the capabilities and tools needed to manage traffic in the domestic environment. This approach allows for optimal fuel-efficient routing in the procedural environment with reduced separation minima for airspace efficiency and gives controllers the tools they need to provide ADS-B based surveillance in en route and approach phases of flight,” continued Shaw. The new Aurora also delivers a complete technical refresh of the system for controllers at the Nadi ATM Center and Nadi and Nausori Towers.


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