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AAI completes trials for aircraft surveillance tech

By Neha LM Tripathi, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 22, 2020 12:13 AM IST

India will soon make further forays into space-based technologies through an application for surveillance and safety by providing automatic and constant updates of aircraft location while flying over oceanic regions. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has successfully completed backup trials with the space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), used in all aircraft, technology that allows an aircraft to automatically send its location updates via satellites to air traffic controllers.

Currently, unless a pilot himself updates his location (send timely signals) while flying in oceanic regions, the location of an aircraft remains unknown to controllers. Experts said that with this technology, chances of incidents like the disappearance of Malaysian airline aircraft can be avoided.

After successful trials, AAI plans to start using the technology to keep surveillance over complete oceanic traffic within the Indian airspace.

Space-based ADS-B is a technology made by a company named Aireon which has been certified as an air navigation service provider (ANSP) for ADS-B by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), an agency of the European Union with responsibility for civil aviation safety. Aireon has been providing their service to NAV Canada (the country’s civil air navigation), Seychelles and the United Kingdom. AAI will be the first ANSP in South Asia to start operating space-based ADS-B.

When ADS-B is in use, an aircraft broadcasts its position with the help of its on-board computer system while the ground-based sensors receive these ADS-B signals which are then picked up by the local air traffic control (ATC) for keeping surveillance over an aircraft.

Since these reports are accurate, it not only enhances passenger safety but also lets ATCs to efficiently use the reports to apply optimum separations between two aircraft flying in the same region, which also results in increasing the capacity of a given airspace.

Officials privy to the development said some security concerns with the ADS-B signals were initially raised, but these doubts have been cleared gradually and ADS-B is gaining confidence from ATCs and pilots to be used as a surveillance tool across the world. Many countries have mandated this technology as an essential equipment for aircraft.

Similarly India’s regulatory body, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), from January 1, 2020 mandated all Indian aircraft to be equipped with the technology. Following this, AAI entered an agreement with the company and has been testing the technology in their back-up system.

Currently Chennai and Mumbai airports are running the trails.

“We have already started receiving the signals and we are running trials in the back-up system. We keep cross-checking data received via satellites, and till date we have found all the information to be timely and accurate for the aircraft. The system gets refreshed every eight seconds, which means that we get an updated location along with various other details of all the aircraft flying in the oceanic region every eight seconds. This technology is also able to give the latest location details with a maximum delay of just two seconds,” said a senior Delhi-based AAI official.

The official added, “We have a system in place called as ADS-C (used by 60% aircraft) which sends automatic messages through satellites every 27 minutes, and hence raises concern on aviation safety due to excessive time difference in receiving updates.”

To ensure maximum air safety to passengers, the Indian continental air space is now covered by ADS-B receivers that are placed all over the country for keeping continuous surveillance over any aircraft flying within the Indian airspace.

“This technology does not need a line of sight; no hindrances can affect the accuracy and speed of the signals received by an ATC. A link between their US-based station and Mumbai has been established and that’s how ADS-B signals are being received by the ATCs,” said a Mumbai-based AAI official. “The date of running this technology in full-fledge is being negotiated,” the official added.

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