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27 April 2016

MEECO, the open mission platform

To make it simple, if GPS + connectivity = Waze, so FMS + connectivity = MEECO for Mission End-to-End Connected & Optimised. Patrick Gouhier, in charge of innovation in the avionics team of Thales, takes a look at the first results and explains the stakes of this innovative project.

What is MEECO about?

More and more people use Waze, a collaborative and connected automobile navigation tool available on our smartphones. Much more than a simple GPS, Waze proposes optimized routes in real-time, taking into account traffic conditions. It also advises on the most affordable gas stations and can help synchronize meet-ups with other users. Connectivity has become a reality in the aerospace sector: more than 80% of aircraft flying in the United States now have a high-speed connectivity solution, for instance supplied by Thales IFE, and it is difficult to imagine a business jet in 2020 without email connection for passengers.

The starting point for MEECO is the transposition in the aeronautical world of the same paradigm that was faced in the automobile sector when connectivity arrived. How will connectivity change the way an aeronautical mission is conducted, such as the management of the trajectory? What added value can connectivity with other stakeholders on the ground bring to our Mission products, particularly the Flight Management System (FMS)?

So, in collaboration with our Innovation Hub, bringing together the expertise of many of our entities, we have conceived and prototyped a mission platform open to third parties which allows to extend the FMS to the ground with shared access to information available in the open world. This information comes from different stakeholders of the aeronautical eco-system such as the operator of the aircraft, air traffic control, data suppliers and third parties.

What are the benefits?

Thanks to connectivity, it is possible for instance to optimize a flight several hundreds of nautical miles upstream, taking into account not only the current weather conditions (as can be seen with the weather radar) but the weather forecast and traffic conditions when the aircraft is set to arrive in a planned area. More generally, the optimization of fuel consumption based on all available data on ground, updated constantly thanks to connectivity, is a clear benefit of the MEECO solution.

It is clearly possible to imagine a broader scope for this solution: if it is possible to provide on board a complete view of the airspace situation as seen by the air traffic controller, it becomes feasible to propose modifications in the flight plan.

On top of these characteristics, MEECO is a platform which is accessible to third parties, enabling them to integrate their own mission optimization building blocks.

What steps have already been completed by the MEECO project?

The open and connected platform concept was presented at Paris Air Show in 2015 on the Avionics 2020 demonstrator (video:Avionics 2020 demonstration). The positive feedback encouraged the development of the concept to be further pursued. During the second semester of 2015, MEECO contributed to prototyping a platform connecting the FMS and data from the open world (traffic, flight plans, weather) in a way that enables easy integration of flight optimization algorithms.

Finally, through the assessment of third party applications providing mission optimization, a possible quick win scenario was retained, which should be tested before the end of the year.

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