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Advanced Technologies for Networking in Avionic Applications

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Airline communications going digital

Digital links will be the basis of the next generation of aeronautical communications systems to enhance capacity, efficiency, safety and comfort in civil air travel. An EU-funded initiative explored the digital potential.

Digital Economy

The ‘Advanced technologies for networking in avionic applications’ (Atenaa) project focused on the possible role of civilian aircraft as nodes for an ad hoc digital communications network consisting of mobile platforms (aircraft and satellites), ground structures and related users. To this end, the researchers investigated mobile ad hoc networking protocols suitable for aeronautical applications. They also evaluated hardware technologies for exploiting the Ka-band of frequencies used in satellite communications. Finally, they investigated the potential use of wireless or free-space optics (FSO) for inter- and intra-aircraft communications and data distribution, enabling signal transmission at very high speeds without the requirement of a government license. The research suggests that mobile ad hoc networking protocols for aeronautical applications are still in their infancy despite tremendous potential benefits. However, they could be applied to aircraft in remote oceanic corridors as a start. The Atenaa project determined that targeted Ka-band satellite links are currently achievable. In addition, wireless optical links among mobile platforms separated by 200–400 km (e.g. aircraft in flight) are currently feasible, as are wireless cabin links that could be used to enhance passenger services and cabin crew communications. In summary, the technology developed and tested by the Atenaa project has advanced the immediate use of FSO communication links for aeronautical mobile platforms, initiating great interest on the part of the aeronautics industry. Future research should promote ad hoc networking as a way to bring aeronautical communications systems into the digital era and thus further enhance their performance and security.

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