“This is an extremely important phase for the future of air traffic management”, explains Philippe Priouzeau, Project Manager of SESAR at Thales Avionics. “The challenge is to produce new capabilities focusing on software upgrades rather than major upheavals.”
In order to achieve this, Thales is relying on the expertise of three distinctive teams: the Air Operations division for ground systems; Thales Alenia Space for satellite competencies; and Thales Avionics for onboard solutions. Indeed, Thales is the only SESAR partner to be present in all three ATM domains – and is second only to Eurocontrol as the largest industry contributor to the programme.
“The advantage of our triple expertise on the ground, in the air and in space is that we can ensure system interoperability”, explains Priouzeau. “We have a vision of the project from several perspectives, which allows us to answer everyone’s different needs.”
One project currently under development is Initial 4D, which seeks to improve aircraft trajectories by adding the dimension of time to current 3D models. By evolving the onboard FMS (Flight Management System) and ground ATM equipment, Initial 4D will allow the pilot and ground control to visualize where the aircraft will be, thus enabling them to gain a real vision of the traffic over a longer period. It will therefore allow greater precision in managing air traffic.
Thales is also working on improving taxiing, thanks to the Digital Taxi solution. At the moment, taxiing authorisations are communicated to pilots orally by radio – which can result in misunderstandings and, at busy airports, saturated radio frequencies. “Digital Taxi will allow ground control to send taxiing directions digitally via data link”, explains Priouzeau, “thus eliminating the potential for miscommunication – and enhancing safety.”
Trials of Digital Taxi will begin this year using Thales’s Airlab. This collaborative flight simulation environment combines ATM software with authentic avionics functions, allowing new solutions to be evaluated before they undergo flight testing. The tool is extremely valuable for SESAR – and is set to be used more and more as the Development phase reaches its peak.
SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research)is a public-private joint undertaking that aims to prepare the industry for the threefold increase in air traffic expected by 2020. As well as reducing the environmental impact of flying and cutting ATM costs, the initiative seeks to improve safety. SESAR was created by the European Commission and Eurocontrol in 2007, and now comprises 50 partners, including airports, airlines and manufacturers.
Photo credit: © Frespuech - Thales