Connectivity, including onboard Wi-Fi, satellite connectivity solutions, in-flight mobile phone use and personal electronic device use, is ruled by geography, airport infrastructure, airline models and regulatory and economic frameworks, according to experts. We will take a look at the status of these drivers to learn where the industry is, how it drives growth in the market and what is next for connectivity within the aviation industry.
Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) has been working with Frequentis to create an environment where drones and civil aviation can coexist in the shared airspace. By integrating air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) on the same platform, situational awareness and safety will be enhanced, allowing increased use of drones in Estonia. The project will accelerate the roll out of Estonian U-space (unmanned airspace) and allow drones to serve critical industry.
The project delivers a pre-operational system, hosted in the Frequentis cloud environment, to allow use cases and business cases to be defined, verified, and trialed. The flexibility of the system, and the experience Frequentis gained from previous projects, allowed the system to be adapted to the needs of EANS. This has allowed EANS to take a leading role in creating the Estonian drone ecosystem and a step closer to their U-space roadmap for Estonian airspace.
“The usage of drone-based services is increasing constantly and drone traffic volume in urban air space is one of the biggest challenges we have to face. To cope with future demand and to continue providing safe airspace operations, we must ensure that all airspace users are aware of each other. It is crucial to have an efficient unmanned traffic management (UTM) system in place that also interacts with manned aircraft operations,” said Jaanus Jakimenko, head of CNS Department and Member of the EANS Management Board. “EANS worked with Frequentis on the SESAR Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space trials in 2019. This experience gave us the knowledge and ability to quickly support the use of drones for emergency services during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. It has also given us the needed assurance of Frequentis technological capabilities and knowledge of their experienced team. We are looking forward to enhancing our airspace operations in line with the growth of drone usage.”
The 2019GOF project focused on ATM/UTM integration testing the U-space concept of operations in seven advanced drone trials. During the 2020 COVD-19 lockdown the Frequentis flight information management system (FIMS) was reactivated and, as a result, enabled EANS to support Estonian emergency services with series of essential drone operations. The cloud-based system is provided as managed service in the Frequentis cloud environment, allowing validation of use cases and business cases as well as UTM/UAS trials. Furthermore, the cloud architecture enables a fully optimised deployment process, without the need for on-site activities. This ensured project success despite the challenges of COVID-19. The current solution will enable EANS to move forward with realising Estonian U-space concept of operations and started implementing technological solution to provide drones safe and secure access to the airspace.
The current cooperation will validate the pre-operational system for EANS for monitoring and authorizing unmanned flights and create preliminary capabilities for common information sharing as outlined in the new U-space regulatory framework. The validation of the pre-operational solution will enable EANS to decide on how to best proceed with deploying U-space in the upcoming years and support the growing unmanned ecosystem.
“The FIMS provides Common Information Services (CIS) and U-space services ensuring a single source of truth where necessary, a foundation for U-space, which allows real-time situational awareness for air traffic controllers, drone operators and service providers, enabling both manned flights and drones to safely share the same airspace,” says Guenter Graf, vice president Frequentis New Business Development “The Frequentis platform allows drone operators to see airspace restrictions and flight rules, file flight plans, and receive updates from Air Traffic Controllers in real time, supporting ANSPs with their goals for increased drone services to support their future tech economy.”
Thales is unveiling the RSM NG, a new digital secondary radar – a meta-sensor for safer skies. The radar leverages the latest digital technologies to bring airports outstanding performance, cyber protection and optimized life-cycle costs.
Thales says a meta-sensor approach makes the radar unique. The 2 in 1 sensor ensures the quality, integrity and availability of data provided to air traffic controllers, contributing to the aircraft’s 3 NM separation standards. The RSM NG combines ADS-B and radar (Mode S) data for faster track initialization providing higher-quality information with reliability.The radar can track up to 2,000 flight tracks and share 64 data outputs simultaneously to different air traffic centers.
Based on international NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) framework, the RSM NG is cyber-secured by design, Thales says, with a single interface for controlling cybersecurity functions while maintaining the radar’s operational behavior.
Minimizing re-interrogation rates, the RSM NG reduces radio frequency pollution and provides an interference map to facilitate its integration in the environment.
All of these technological enhancements integrate seamlessly into the constant evolving ATC environment; in particular, the advanced digital architecture of the RSM NG supports software-defined upgrades to accommodate future technical requirements Thales says.
More compact and easy to deploy, the RSM NG incorporates HUMS capabilities (Health Usage and Monitoring System) for optimized maintenance. Re-engineered to limit life-cycle costs, the radar has a very compact design with 30% reduction in weight and volume, with now only two electronic cabinets instead of three.
“With more than 50 years of experience in secondary surveillance radars, Thales is constantly investing to lead the latest innovations in the market for air traffic control radars for safer skies. The RSM NG represents no less than 10 patents,” said Marie Gayrel, director of ATC radar activities, Thales.
The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) announced their continued commitment to the Single African Sky initiative through the installation of a third Aireon Service Delivery Point (SDP) in their Dakar, Senegal operations center. The installation of this tertiary SDP allows ASECNA to receive triple-redundant data to all six ASECNA controlled Flight Information Regions (FIRs)- Antananarivo, Brazzaville, Dakar Oceanic, Dakar Terrestrial, Niamey and N’Djamena – over three independent telecommunications lines. Each line is also feeding data into the ASECNA AFISNET Very-Small-Aperture Terminal (VSAT) network, making space-based ADS-B highly available in the region.
ASECNA, first initiating the Aireon service operational deployment in January 2020, now has one of the most robust networks for space-based ADS-B data. The AFISNET VSAT network allows every ASECNA center to receive Aireon data, which is seamlessly integrated into their Thales TopSky automation platform, with minimum latency. Space-based ADS-B is being used throughout their airspace, augmenting ground sensors. With the upcoming African ADS-B mandate, this technology will facilitate a more dynamic, safe and efficient airspace and allow these multiple FIRs to operate as one, harmonious airspace, furthering the objectives Single African Sky initiative. Also, the connection to the AFISNET VSAT network will make it easier for Member States to access full air traffic surveillance data and coordinate with regions throughout the continent.
According to Mohamed Moussa, ASECNA Director General, “Single African Sky is the fundamental goal of ASECNA. By deploying Aireon data throughout our region, we are maintaining the highest level of safety and providing the most robust data to all member states through the AFISNET VSAT network. ASECNA is leading the global aviation community by eliminating the reliance on ground-based surveillance and transitioning it to satellites, in line with a complete satellite CNS strategy that also includes satellite-based augmentation system – SBAS – for Africa. Every region, no matter how remote, now has access to this data.”
Don Thoma, Aireon CEO said, “Working with ASECNA throughout their deployment has been an honor. DG Moussa and his team have made Single African Sky their largest priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have taken this opportunity to enhance their technology and operations. ASECNA has made the investment to position their airspace as one of the most advanced and efficient in the world, leading the African continent to be the gold standard in air traffic surveillance.”
Pioneer Metal Finishing (Pioneer), a portfolio company of Aterian Investment Partners (Aterian), announced the acquisition of Electrochem Solutions (Electrochem).
Founded in 1982 and based in Union City, Calif., Electrochem is a metal finishing company in Silicon Valley. Electrochem provides a range of highly technical finishing solutions including gold plating, silver plating, anodizing, electroless nickel, and other services to clients primarily in the semiconductor fabrication equipment end market.
“Pioneer is the right choice for Electrochem, our employees and customers,” David Rossiter, owner of Electrochem, said. “Pioneer is recognized as the ideal buyer for family and founder owned metal finishing businesses. I am confident Pioneer will be a great home for our employees and customers because of our shared goals and values.”
Daniel Krasnow, principal at Aterian added, “We are excited to continue to build upon Pioneer’s strategy of acquiring leading metal finishing businesses. Electrochem expands Pioneer’s presence on the West Coast and adds new technical capabilities Pioneer can build upon.”
Defense, aviation and aerospace firms all demand mission-critical performance from precious metal plating and coating for a variety of rigorous applications including systems for missile guidance, aircraft power and thrust and satellite communications. Connectivity solutions, for example, must deliver 100% reliable current and voltage under potentially harsh conditions.
“For aerospace customers, this acquisition uniquely positions Pioneer to provide highly complex solutions, flexible capabilities and an ultra-reliable supply chain to a dynamic industry that’s exhibiting strong growth. Across all markets, customers appreciate the stability offered by Pioneer’s financial strength, broad customer base and large footprint across North America – currently 11 facilities and more than one million square feet of manufacturing capacity. Pioneer in committed to continually meet their needs today, tomorrow and into the future,” said Carlos Miller, Pioneer Metal Products’ VP Aerospace and Defense, shown above. “Like Pioneer, Electrochem has a proud history of developing and executing challenging engineered surface solutions that other companies shy away from. We’re now a one-stop shop for precious metal coatings that provide superior connectivity and anti-corrosion performance. Founded nearly 40 years ago, Electrochem focuses on functionally engineered precious metal plating, electroless nickel, aluminum anodizing, complex masking and clean room-based related services for specialized, high-tech components; Electrochem is an approved vendor for many Fortune 500 companies. Francisco Ruiz, current General Manager, will continue leading this division.”
Weil Gotshal & Manges advised Pioneer on the transaction.
Satcom Direct has begun airborne testing of its Plane Simple Satcom Antenna Systems one year after announcing the launch their purpose-built Ku-band tail mounted antenna system.
The transition from development to ground assessment to the aerial testing phase aims to validate the full performance capabilities of the Ku-band terminal. Inflight trials will also confirm the system’s integration with the SD ecosystem of hardware, software and supporting ground infrastructure. The antenna, which is now equipped on SD’s Gulfstream aircraft, will be stretched to the limits of its capabilities while providing empirical feedback about its functionality in an aerial environment.
“It is our company philosophy to always bring products to market that we have validated internally, and we are in a unique position to have the ability to undertake system testing on our own aircraft which gives us direct performance feedback,” says Jim Jensen, Satcom Direct founder and CEO. “The aerial validation is the next step in becoming a single source provider of end-to-end connectivity solutions for business and government operators worldwide, which will streamline the connectivity ownership experience and customer support services.”
The aerial testing follows successful completion of intense drive testing completed in Melbourne, Florida using a customized mobile platform. SD’s investment in the hardware series is satisfying the broadening segment of the business aviation sector’s appetite for flexible, reliable, cost effective connectivity solutions. The Plane Simple tail-mounted antenna system will support super-mid to large-size jets and is being developed in partnership with Germany-based QEST, Quantenelektronische Systeme GmbH, a worldwide market leader in innovative aeronautical antennas.
“Aviation is moving toward a digital industry, and data is the foundation for informed decision making by operations, finance and maintenance departments. It is essential that we can offer powerful connectivity solutions to a much broader business aviation audience which also support enhanced data management and analytics. The start of our inflight testing within a year of announcing the hardware expansion highlights just how committed we are to meeting these market needs,” said Jensen.
The Plane Simple Ku-band antenna is the first in a series of antenna systems being developed by SD. As a Value-Added Manufacturer (VAM) and service provider (SP) for Iridium Certus, SD is also designing and manufacturing a Plane Simple antenna system for compatibility with the new network offering from Iridium, while also providing the service direct to the business aviation community. The company is aiming to launch a Ka-band variant tail mount antenna in 2022, followed by an electronically steered, fuselage mounted phased-array antenna which will deliver high-speed connectivity via upcoming LEO constellations.
It’s very encouraging that the end of the pandemic is hopefully in sight and once these wonderful vaccines are successfully rolled out then life can start to return to some normality. At which point travel and events such as ATW can safely recommence.
We therefore feel it is more prudent to reschedule ATW, one last time, to 3-4th November ’21 giving the vaccine roll out more time. The event will remain at the same Diagora venue in Toulouse, France.
We are very confident that our in-person event will be a great success and it’s even bigger than when it was originally scheduled pre-pandemic! The conference programmes are already in place https://lnkd.in/dmS7FSz and the exhibitions halls are nearly full https://lnkd.in/dTRjzTW.
The hiatus in our event schedule has ironically given us more time to use our new publication, ✈ Aerospace Tech REVIEW to share news and raise even greater awareness of the event for us all. Therefore we expect a significant take up from attendees which will create a much needed business platform for us all.
Thank you to all our loyal supporters and see you in Toulouse!
LAANC is a collaboration between the FAA and the drone industry that directly supports the safe integration of drones into the nation’s airspace. Launched in 2017, the capability covers 80 percent of controlled National Airspace at 400 feet or below and expedites the time it takes for drone pilots to receive near real-time authorizations to fly in this space. All drone pilots operating in LAANC-enabled areas under the FAA’s small drone rule or under the exception for limited recreational operations can access the capability through FAA Approved LAANC Service Suppliers.
LAANC provides drone pilots with industry developed applications to obtain near real-time airspace authorizations for operations in a controlled airspace below 400 feet. LAANC does not provide entities with the authority to regulate the airspace or grant access without FAA approval.
The Schedule is:
Application Period: May 3 – June 4, 2021
FAA Submission Review: June 7 – July 9, 2021
Technical Interviews: June 12 – August 13, 2021
Formal Onboarding: August 16 – October 15, 2021
The FAA is announcing the application date more than two months in advance to help applicants prepare, as they must have a mature product at time of application. Information on requirements and the onboarding process can be found on FAA.gov.
Great strides have been made worldwide as air navigation service providers (ANSPs) leverage several technologies to increase air traffic management efficiency both in the air and at airports.
Indeed, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Central America and the Caribbean are using Aireon’s space-based ADS-B air traffic surveillance system joining 12 other ANSPs in 37 countries.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) is using Aireon successfully across Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata’s oceanic airspaces, providing an additional layer of surveillance for the world’s third largest airspace.
Airservices Australia is using data sharing to become the first ANSP to implement Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) at multiple locations using data sharing to become the first ANSP to implement Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) at multiple locations — Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane — using a Saab Sensis system expected to save $52 million in fuel and emissions by 2030 by increasing airport efficiency.
In November, Aireon partnered with FAA to explore its use in validation and integration into air traffic control automation platforms, airspace safety analysis, accident investigation data analysis, airport surface applications, air traffic management support, remote situational awareness and commercial space.
The agency reported it continues to develop and deploy new systems or system enhancements to improve operations and fuel efficiency, including ADS-B, Data Communications, Time-Based Flow Management and Terminal Flight Data Manager technologies to expand coverage in the Gulf of Mexico and remote areas of Alaska. It is using ADS-B to reduce separation from five to three nautical miles en-route below 23,000 feet.
In addition to ADS-B, said Aireon, industry’s toolbox includes such technologies as digital voice, trajectory-based operations, virtual towers, autonomous monitoring, ACAS-Xu (providing both collision avoidance and detect and avoid capability for UAS), dynamic routing, continuous data exchange and AI.
North Atlantic Results Show Reduced Emissions
“In my judgement, the most important real contribution to increased ATM efficiency is space-based ADS-B,” Reason Foundation Director of Transportation Policy Bob Poole told ATR.
A year past FAA’s mandate for ADS-B Out, it is clear leveraging its data is a powerful tool for innovation.
In 2019, NAV Canada became the first ANSP to use satellite-based surveillance to track aircraft over the North Atlantic, previously a dead spot in radar-based surveillance, and has since partnered with UK’s NATS to cut emissions on Atlantic routes.
Covid-related reductions in air traffic allowed NAV Canada and NATS to experiment with using the Jetstream, which can soar between 100 and 200 knots, to improve efficiency. A test analyzing around 35,000 flights between December 1, 2020 and February 29, 2021, showed changes to current ATC practices increases efficiency between New York and London.
Authors of Reducing Transatlantic Flight Emissions by Fuel-Optimized Routing, said Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, coupled with technology, enabled them to test fuel optimized routes.
“These new routes take greater advantage of the prevailing eastward winds when flying east and reduce the negative impact flying west,” they said. “The conveyor effect of winds saves a significant amount of air distance and thus fuel and emissions by adopting the Optimized for Winds (OFW) routes. Using ICAO’s carbon emissions calculator, we determined a return flight between London and New York generates 670 kg of CO2 per passenger for a potential saving of over 6.7 million kg of CO2 emissions across the winter period of each year alone.”
Based on the results, NATS announced in its blog it was disbanding the Organized Track Structure on days where ATC supervisors don’t believe it necessary.
ICAO’s Cost-Benefit Calculating Tool helps ANSPs analyze the costs and benefits of implementing CNS/ATM systems. The agency said a broad economic study indicated that, globally, benefits greatly exceeded the costs and called the replacement of the existing line-of-sight systems with satellite-based air navigation services, a quantum step forward.
Collins Aerospace Director of FAA & Government Programs Gene Hayman indicated the calculator, developed in the mid-2000s, is a good tool and relevant to making sure the right questions are asked. But, like any tool, it must evolve.
“More flights received requested flight levels, speed and routes,” said NAV CANADA President and CEO Neil Wilson in a blog. “Since March 2019, longitudinal standards have been reduced from approximately 40 nautical miles to 14-17 nautical miles, and lateral separation reduced from 23 nautical miles to 15-19 nautical miles for equipped aircraft. The deployment of space-based ADS-B is the beginning of a global revolution that is already showing its promise by delivering enhanced safety, efficiency and environmental benefits. This is expected to reduce overall safety risks by approximately 76% in the North Atlantic. Based on a study conducted by NATS and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) CO2 emissions are estimated to be reduced by approximately two tons per oceanic flight.”
Time to Experiment
Hayman reported industry and government are looking for other ways to leverage reduced traffic to demonstrate technology.
“Now is the perfect time from a safety perspective,” he said. “The next 12-24 month is a great opportunity to start looking at new technology and concepts.”
He pointed to the industry/government Blue Skies Initiative (BSI), sponsored by Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), which is looking at emerging technologies, commercial space and advanced air mobility.
“The question is how do we make these new capabilities happen and what science needs to happen to integrate these new technologies quicker,” he said. “It could have significant impact on space launch windows. Today a wide area of airspace is closed to accommodate the increasing number of launches, but with more data on how launches impact the system, it could provide better predictability and significantly shorten airspace closures.”
Another bright spot in ATM efficiency is the gradual increase in free-route airspace in Europe applied at upper altitudes where it has been negotiated between adjacent ANSPs, Poole added.
“That is definitely saving time, fuel, and CO2,” he said. “Some visionary ideas are being discussed in Europe, such as unified upper airspace regardless of national boundaries, and virtual en-route centers, but I don’t see any of this moving beyond the talk stage.”
Creating a Connected Aviation Ecosystem
Moving from an ATC-controlled information stream to delivering that information directly to pilots, controllers, airports and aircraft operators is perhaps one of the system’s greatest promises; one that could include collaborative decision making.
Honeywell Aerospace Senior R&D Manager, Don Kauffman explained one goal is to add capability to the flight deck to increase operations under instrument and marginal meteorological conditions to those of visual conditions to increase capacity. He pointed to the collection of flight deck applications that make use of ADS-B messages and Required Time of Arrival (RTA) capability available on all Honeywell Flight Management Systems (FMS) that are FANS-capable. It can deliver an aircraft in cruise to a waypoint with an accuracy of +30 seconds. Honeywell’s FMS for the Boeing 787 also extends RTA capability into all phases of flight.
“Ideally,” said Kauffman, in discussing the challenges of merging two arrival streams, “aircraft arrive at the merge point spaced exactly at the minimum, safe separation distance. Fundamentally, the goal is to keep aircraft spaced sufficiently such that interventions to breaches can be taken in time. RTA applications tracks performance to the RTA goal and continually makes minute adjustments to the aircraft speed.
Kauffman added Flight deck Interval Management (FIM) applications automatically calculate speed commands easing pilot workload by “capturing” the designated traffic, either speeding up or slowing down to achieve the desired spacing.
In addition to Honeywell’s systems, Flyht Aerospace Solutions offers its AFIRS SatCom solution for FANS and ATC/ATS Safety Service Voice.
“A leading U.S. Airbus operator demonstrated by using AFIRS, a return on investment could be achieved in approximately 15 weeks, using SATCOM voice/datalink to fly direct routing from the US to the Caribbean,” Vice President, Sales & Marketing Derek Taylor told ATR. “This reduced sector flight time, fuel burn, crew duty time and eliminated the need for overnighting and associated logistical costs. Flyht’s technology connects the aircraft to the ATM network while over remote areas, out of VHF range, and/or in oceanic airspace.”
Pro-Active ATM Management
“This will turn air traffic management from reactive to pro-active using historic and current data to look out days in advance to make better predictions about the airspace and better models for air traffic flow, all to create better decision support tools to help the system become more efficient,” said Hayman. “Automated data sharing gives everyone the same information so routes can be optimized for fuel and airspace. Fifteen years ago, the industry suggested making the aircraft another node on the network. The whole concept of the fully connected aviation ecosystem is now a reality because the operational technology is being integrated with information technology, and being transmitted digitally to transform air traffic management (ATM).”
L3Harris Director Business Develop Mission Networks Chris Collings agrees. “In today’s ATM environment, efficiencies are gained by combining technologies with updated procedures to modernize air traffic management,” he told ATR. “Technologies like GPS navigation, terrestrial and space-based ADS-B, Data Comm’s Controller Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC), improved weather information products for optimal routing, and System Wide Information Management (SWIM), all enable new ATM procedures that drive efficiency. As rollout and adoption of these technologies increase, as it has in recent years in the U.S., we are now beginning to see those efficiency benefits.”
FAA said its surface surveillance system provides controllers and operators with surface information at major airports via SWIM. For operators, the information supports more efficient ground/gate operations and better fleet management. The Surface Visualization Tool provides information about current surface operations, improving the ability to integrate departing aircraft more seamlessly into the airspace.
Collings said from L3Harris’ perspective, it is entirely possible the improved situational awareness provided by SWIM could enable airspace users to upload their information to share with ATC for collaborative decision making across the airspace and surface operations.
In the en-route environment, Collings explained, Data Comm’s Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) enables controllers to send revised routes that are not feasible using voice alone such as precision latitude/longitude and complex place-bearing distance instructions. These clearances enable controllers to send shorter and more precise re-routing for flights.
“Operators using Data Comm’s Departure Clearance capability have reduced gate delays and shortened taxi times from the efficient digital route clearance that pilots load into their flight computers,” he said. “Not only does data transmission reduce readback errors but pilots avoid lengthy voice channel wait times to get route revisions. This can really save time during busy weather delay events. Combining ADS-B information with Performance Based Navigation (PBN) capability of the aircraft, enables ATC to develop new procedures replacing separation to more efficiently route aircraft, dramatically increasing fuel savings. Terrestrial ADS-B also provides broader surveillance coverage than the radar-based surveillance ATC system it replaces, which opens new, less congested routes for operators.”
Poole sees only modest improvements from CPDLC in the U.S. where it is used for expediting tower departure clearances with little or no impact en-route. Similarly, he reported slower progress in Europe.
“The mostly good news is that the first steps of phase two — equipping en-route centers with Data Comm capability — is operational at Indianapolis and Kansas City [and Washington Centers],” said Poole. The pandemic has caused deployment delays.
Poole is not alone in his criticism. Airlines for America (A4A) pointed to the Total Delay Impact Study — conducted by a consortium of universities and funded and updated by the FAA.
“U.S. flight delay costs to airlines and passengers have exceeded $20 billion every year since 2007 and that number has increased to $30 billion in the last few years,” the organization told Aerospace Tech Review. “NextGen promised between 5% and 12% fuel and emissions savings and is an unrealized promise. Even a 5% savings in 2018 would have eliminated nearly 10 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to taking more than 2.1 million cars off the road for an entire year. PBN is an example of a foundational capability that enables an aircraft to navigate using precise performance standards on a desired flight path. However, its deployment has been delayed consistently and the intended goals — added safety, lower emissions, less total noise exposure, improved airport access during bad-weather and improved predictability benefits — have not been achieved.”
That may be so, but technology has existed since 2001 — independently validated by FAA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, GE Aviation, Delta and Georgia Tech — proving that if airlines managed their aircraft in real time, from gate-to-gate, making adjustments in flight, they could have lowered emissions (CO2/NOX/noise) and reduced costs, while improving ATC efficiency, on-time performance and schedule reliability. The technology is ATHGroup’s GreenLandings solution, developed by former United Captain Michael Baiada and his partner Lonnie Bowlin. Airlines counter with “it can’t be done,” while advocates, like Aviation Consultant Robert Mann, say, instead of waiting for the long-promised benefits from NextGen, airlines could have solved congestion problems years ago with this low cost, self-help solution.
Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS)
“The pioneers who envisioned NextGen as a transformation of U.S. air traffic control, assumed that aircraft would be guided to airports by RNP precision approaches linked to all-weather GPS-based landing system, replacing legacy instrument landing systems (ILSs),” said Poole, adding GPS-based landing systems are not included in NextGen leaving airlines and airports including United hubs Houston and Newark, to buy and install the systems themselves.
Poole cited several benefits to GBAS such as no signal interference and blind spots that plague ILS. GBAS also does not require a separate system on every runway end.
“Honeywell’s latest GBAS version can serve up to 48 runway ends from a single system,” he said. “It offers the standard 3-degree ILS glideslope, but also offers a 3.2-degree glideslope, reducing noise by keeping planes somewhat higher as they approach the runway. There’s no business case for ripping out current ILSs with many years of useful life remaining, but for airports with serious fog problems like San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA), GBAS offers considerable potential, especially once more-precise CAT II and Cat. 3 systems are certified, which in now close.”
Poole sees the same business-case for large European airports, noting the chicken-and-egg problem of aircraft equipage driving airport equipage has been overtaken by an upward trend in equipage.
“At the ICAO GBAS/SBAS workshop in Seoul, Boeing reported that more than 3,000 of its airliners are GBAS-equipped, with 72% of deliveries having GBAS,” Poole reported in Aviation Policy News. “GBAS was an option on the A320, A330, A350 and A380. The GBAS Alliance was created by GBAS producer Indra Navia and Airbus and its nearly two dozen members include airports, airlines and ANSPs. They are targeting key airports and ANSPs. Indra’s NORMARC GBAS completed flight tests at Hong Kong and the company says its home country, Norway, has used GPS-based landing systems at 17 airports for years. Germany’s DFS (which pioneered CAT I GPS at Frankfurt in 2012) is now actively planning for CAT II and Cat. 3 systems, with the first evaluations set for Bremen Airport. DFS expects that by 2030 only 20% of its ILSs will still be in operation, mainly as backups for GPS outages. ICAO has approved GBAS CAT II/3 standards.”
Poole noted Honeywell’s development of a CAT II modification to its CAT I GBAS ground equipment so planes equipped with its Smartpath CAT I avionics can fly CAT II approaches. As soon as FAA approves operating specifications for this, he said, American, Delta, and United airliners will be able to fly CAT II GBAS approaches at Houston and Newark.
Leveraging Big Data
Aireon sees ubiquitous data exchange as the basis of all future operational paradigms with AI fundamental to the ability to transition to a big data environment.
Collings agrees. The biggest role that big data provides today to ATM is the ability to measure improvements and identify areas of optimization. For example, by analyzing thousands of flight plans filed and comparing to actual routes flown, aircraft operators can avoid a lengthy route revision process before departure resulting in a more efficient process and reduced delays.
FAA also sees machine learning and artificial intelligence as key technologies for improving safety. It already incorporates AI and machine learning into weather forecasting improving both tactical and strategic weather strategies. The Offshore Precipitation Capability uses machine learning to improve traffic management around convective weather between Florida and the Bahamas and is being extended to other areas where there is no coverage.
“Big Data is definitely here to stay,” Hayman concluded. “Having a previously disconnected aviation eco-system and building out Internet of Things, I truly think that will give us seamless ATM because you are allowing all the information to flow to all the stakeholders in real time.”
Electronic flight bags (EFBs) have evolved from electronic novelties to must-have essentials in today’s cockpits. Mounting EFBs safely in the cockpit can be a challenge, particularly in older aircraft. This is why ATR recently spoke with EFB mount manufacturers to see how they’re solving this and other mounting-related issues.
ABC Completions’ Suite of EFB Fixed Mounts
ABC Completions has been offering fixed mounts with data/electrical connections for Class II EFBs since 2005. “We began with CMC Electronic Flight Bags,” said company President Gary Nash. “We launched them first for Bombardier Global Express/5000/6000 business jets, and then added the Challenger. We followed up with the Boeing BBJ/757 and the Dassault Falcon 2000.” (Note: the CMC EFBs use Expansion Module Units that are mounted in the avionics bay or side consoles, along with the touchscreen displays that are mounted near the pilot’s side windows.)
Today, ABC Completions continues to provide EFB mounts made of aviation-grade aluminum for the CMC EFB, and has expanded its line to support iPad Class II EFBs as well. Its pivoting/swivelling EFB mounts are either attached to the window frame or the side console below it, depending on the aircraft model. But what all of them have in come is that these EFB mounts are all FAA STC’d.
“We don’t do any sort of unapproved installations,” said Nash. “So we are limited in the airplane types that we can install to without doing major cockpit renovations and relocations.”
ABC Completions’ sacrifice is good news for its EFB-using customers, because they can buy this product knowing that they have been FAA-approved and validated. But this sacrifice can make it difficult to sell EFB mounting systems into older aircraft, where custom modifications may have to be made to fit them in.
Conversely, the aviation industry’s move to iPad-based EFBs is helping ABC Completions to grow its EFB mounting business. But Gary Nash draws the line at cheapening his products in order to boost sales.
“I’ve seen people attach their EFBs to $70,000 windows using suction cups, which I really can’t believe that anyone should do,” he said. “I’ve also seen US airlines that Velcro their EFBs onto panels in the cockpit. Neither of these are certified solutions, which is why we don’t offer them. We want ABC Completions’ customers to be comfortable with the quality and reliability that we offer by mounting their EFBs safely and securely. This extends to the wiring and cabling in the aircraft: We leave it neat and safe.”
Looking ahead, Gary Nash is keeping his eye on Apple and its penchant for releasing new iPad models, which can end up as Class II EFBs. “Luckily our housing is easy to adapt to accommodate any changes to the iPad’s case, which hasn’t been happening of late,” said Nash. “Instead, Apple is now focussed on changing features inside the iPad’s existing case, including increasing screen size, which makes life easier for us.”
Airbus’ Mounting Solutions
Airbus is offering several EFB mounting solutions for its commercial airliners.
In the Airbus A320 fleet, an Apple iPad mount attaches the EFB to the cockpit window frame. Compatible with the iPad 2/3/4 and iPad Air 1/2, this unit features a clamping bracket that holds the EFB in place and comes with an integrated electrical power. A purely structural mount solution is also available for the A320 Family, for which power needs to come from the nearby cockpit power outlet.
The company’s EFB mounting solution for Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft works with iPad/iPad Air, Surface/ Surface Pro and Thales Pad tablets. The mount attaches in the sidewall below the window frame and includes a quick-release connector to remove the EFB when not in use. For this solution, power is provided externally from the nearby cockpit power outlet.
As for future developments for EFB mountings: Airbus is looking to develop more standardized integration of the latest USB-C standards for power provision.
Avionics Support Group’s Constant Friction Mount
Avionics Support Group’s (ASG) contribution to EFB mounting solutions is known as the ASG Constant Friction Mount (cfMount). It was designed in 2003. Two years later, the cfMount was installed as part of the first commercially used Class 2 EFB system on a Miami Air B737NG.
Unlike some other EFB mounting solutions that are removable (e.g. by using suction cups), the cfMount is a fixed structure designed to be attached to an aircraft’s window frame. ASG chose this location because a window location is convenient for pilots who use EFBs, and also because the window frame provides a solid, robust support structure.
Physically speaking, the ASG cfMount is comprised of a top plate and bottom plate. The top plate that holds the EFB is connected to a large swivelling ball in the bottom plate (which is fixed to the window frame). This design allows the EFB to be pivoted, angled and turned using one hand for optimal viewing by the pilot without having to loosen or tighten any screws/knobs.
Because window frame shapes and sizes vary from aircraft to aircraft, the cfMount comes in three models. There is the standard model (the cfMount), plus the Slide cfMount and the Wedge cfMount.
ASG’s decision to offer three models of cfMounts is a response to tightly-packed cockpits, where finding space to add after-market devices can be challenging. “This is why we have gone through an extensive design and FAA STC certification process,” said ASG VP Hugo L. Fortes. “We listen to the customer and any of their concerns before a final design review and STC issuance is accomplished.”
ASG developed its three cfMount models after the company’s engineers surveyed a number of aircraft cockpits. In each case, “we considered the space in the cockpit and the optimal viewing angle for the pilot,” said Fortes. “We also considered window egress, ease of use and accessibility of the cockpit oxygen mask to make sure our cfMount location does not interfere with any adjacent fixtures.”
During these surveys, ASG’s engineers took time to assess the availability of electricity for EFBs and their specific power requirements. As a result, “we offer a wide variety of EFB power solutions along with data capabilities,” Fortes said. “EFB power solutions can also be customized to fit the specific needs of an operator …The main challenge is accommodating the ever-changing power requirements that exist as tablets evolve.”
Moving forward, ASG is “looking at USB-C and integrated Ethernet/Power requirements for iPads – receiving Ethernet information and power at the same time which we believe is the future,” said Fortes. “Most major US airlines are using our cfMounts with the next step being combined Ethernet/Power. Our solution provides a hard-wired ethernet connection to the iPad allowing for weather, GPS information, and other data-centric services.”
FlyBoys’ PIVOT EFB Mounts
FlyBoys’ unique PIVOT EFB mounting system was inspired by company founder Mike Schulter’s experiences as a Southwest Airlines first officer.
“I was in the right seat of a 737 sitting at the gate in Dallas, and the captain was on the EFB team. He pulled out an iPad, a big cradle and a giant set of suctions cups,” Schulter recalled. “Seemed like he took 10 minutes using both hands to get this rig attached so he could actually use it. I thought to myself, ‘there has to be a better way’.”
Knowing Southwest was seeking an EFB mounting solution but had not decided, Mike watched closely and took notes over the next several days. Since he already ran an established aviation-goods company when not in the cockpit, Mike got together with his engineers to develop a leading-edge EFB system in order to win this contract. In just a couple of weeks, the result was the PIVOT mounting system, which Southwest ultimately deployed airline wide just nine months later. With more than 150 user airlines worldwide, including airlines such as United, Delta, FedEx, Emirates, ANA and KLM on the client list, PIVOT is the fastest growing solution in the world. Currently, the U. S. Air Force and Navy are deploying PIVOT as well.
The genius of the PIVOT mounting system lies in its use of separate but universal EFB mounting bases and matching ruggedized EFB cases. The mounts primarily use compression-locked suction cups or something known as LTRM’s or Long Term Removable Mounts. The PIVOT cases provide protection against shocks and moisture, and feature an integrated channel built in for the connection to the mount making the connection and adjustment an effortless task. It only takes one hand to connect/disconnect the PIVOT case to its base, and to rotate/adjust the attached EFB in the cockpit. Again, this important utility was driven by Mike’s captain suffering with a cumbersome mounting solution. “He had to hold the iPad, loosen the knob, adjust it, and then tighten it back down in that spot, and knew then I didn’t want that for the rest of my career.”
The fact that the EFB case is separate from the mounting base means that the system can accommodate new tablets with different dimensions as they hit the market. All that is needed is a new PIVOT case to attach to the current universal mounting plate using their patented technology. The unique sound of the “Click” connection signals the user it is firmly locked in place. “By taking this approach, we basically future-proofed our customers’ EFB mounting systems,” said Schulter. “Not only does this feature save money, but it minimizes effort and confusion common to integrating a new EFB into the cockpit.” This approach also allows users to migrate from current to new EFBs at a pace their operation can manage, without crew distraction. There’s no imperative to change out everything at once due to hardware or fit issues. Now, suction cups aren’t the only EFB mounting options offered by FlyBoys. The LTRM’s that attach to a variety of cockpit window frames are considered portable by the FAA’s EFB guidance known as AC 120-76D. Many airlines have adopted the LTRM for its value and performance and ease of deployment.
But, for many just starting EFB, there is no doubt that PIVOT’s suction cup option is an extremely popular option as it is affordable, easy to use, and very durable.
“Our suction cup costs $48 at retail and it can last four years or more,” Schulter said. “So, for what amounts to around a dollar a month, you have a great way to mount your iPad in the airplane, car, office or wherever you want to use it.” Note: Although FlyBoys does provide some iPad cockpit power solutions, the PIVOT system does not include them.
The best part is that PIVOT suction cups can be attached in all kinds of aircraft, whatever their vintage and if you can’t find a place for that, there is a PIVOT legstrap that can do the job. “One of our biggest fans uses his PIVOT to mount an iPad EFB in his DC-3, it’s very cool to see where we started and where we’ve gone in such a short time” said Schulter.
SmartSky Networks announced that it has closed on more than $32 million in additional equity and debt funding as it prepares for the launch of its next-generation aviation Wi-Fi connectivity service later this year.
“In a display of confidence in the future of SmartSky’s groundbreaking technology and services, we received new funds from our institutional investors,” said SmartSky CEO David Helfgott.
SmartSky’s office-grade inflight Wi-Fi service for business and commercial aviation uses the pioneering company’s uniquely scalable, single-beam-per-aircraft approach, which is backed by a substantial patent portfolio and years of flight testing. Building on this transformative capability, the company is enabling advanced new applications through Skytelligence, its digital innovation platform, to improve safety and efficiency while providing the industry with new ancillary revenue sources.