07/04/2014

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Sharing and collaborating, the keys to 21st century aeronautics

 

Sharing and collaborating have never been easier since the Internet came to form part of our lives and took off to became something natural with the advent of mobile technologies. We share our likes and dislikes over the Internet and provide the system with feedback by assessing hotels in Tripadvisor, books in Amazon, movies in IMDb, the state of traffic in Waze, etc. But what is happening in the world of aeronautics? Is there anything similar?

There is indeed something similar, but much bigger and more ambitious. More specifically, there are two technologies that can change a lot of things in the short term. They are Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). The former is focused on airports and the latter on aircraft.

A-CDM is a system for sharing airport operation information among airlines, operators and even other airports. It is a project developed under the aegis of Eurocontrol and ACI Europe (http://www.euro-cdm.org/) and has been fully implemented at Munich and Brussels airports. More specifically, the responsible for Data Services and Management at Brussels Airport who took part in this project has a blog where he provides details on what the process was like. He is called Kris de Bolle (http://about.me/krisdebolle) and has already published two very interesting articles:

1. Airport Collaborative Decision Making in Europe: http://dcdesigntech.com/new-airport-insider/airport-collaborative-decision-making-in-europe/

2. A-CDM Concept Elements: Setting Milestones: http://dcdesigntech.com/new-airport-insider/a-cdm-concept-elements-setting-milestones/

ADS-B is a collaborative surveillance system aimed at monitoring aircraft. Each airplane determines its position by satellite through GNSS (GPS, GLONASS or Galileo) and openly broadcasts it by radio. This technology forms part of what is known as Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) in United States and the CASCADE programme in Europe. It will have to be implemented by January 2020 in any aircraft that overflies territory controlled by United States. This technology seems complex in principle, but it really is not. Its power is incredible, as a small airport could be operated with this information without the need for approach radar or many other complex and expensive technologies. This is possible because aircraft share information on their position, origin and destination. As a matter of fact, this technology is so simple it can be replicated in an amateur fashion with a computer, a bit of software and an adapted TV-TDT card (http://www.rtl-sdr.com/adsb-aircraft-radar-with-rtl-sdr/). The result is similar to what can be seen on http://www.flightradar24.com/.

Once again, it is being demonstrated that sharing can be much more important for the future than what we tend to think.

 

Addendum:

This article was written before the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. This flight has brought ADS-B into the public eye, and one of the questions that most people have asked is:

If the ADS-B is so important then why can it be manually switched off by the pilot?

As you can imagine, the answers vary a great deal. They are generally related to transponder errors in terms of correctly locating the aircraft and other issues. For further information, the following two links are extremely informative:

Why can aircraft transponders can be switched off manually? In the Microsiervos blog (Spanish)

Out of Control in the New York Times

 

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