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Increased Capacity for High Density operations by Evolution of Controller/Pilot communication

The output of this project must be the future global[[“global here means voice and data]] A/G communication concept of operations (CONOPS). The future controller-pilot global A/G communications CONOPS shall cover both the future voice and the extension of datalink communications below FL 285. This CONOPS will be used as an input to the SESAR concept of operations, and also as an input for the future industrial research projects working in these areas.

It is anticipated that the development of the voice and datalink concept of operations will require the involvement of technical experts external to the consortium (e.g. through technical workshops), with the consortium’s main role being that of providing the background information, the operational view and framework, and facilitating the workshops and consolidating the results to produce concept or concepts of operations as the final technical deliverable of the project.

It is expected that the following SESAR Wave 2 industrial research solutions will contribute experts to the CONOPS:

  • Solution 8, “Dynamic E-TMA for Advanced Continuous Climb and Descent Operations and improved Arrival and Departure Operations”;
  • Solution 21, “Digital evolution of integrated surface management”;
  • Solution 56, “Improved vertical profiles through enhanced vertical clearances”;
  • Solution 57, “RBT revision supported by datalink and increased automation”.
  • Solution 73, “Flight-centric ATC and Improved Distribution of Separation Responsibility in ATC”; and
  • Solution 77, “FCI Services”.

The integration of the technical and operational point of view is essential for the success of this project. The consortium must therefore have both operational and technical expertise, and the proposal must demonstrate how the work plan will ensure the continuous coordination between operational and technical experts.

Proposals are expected to first define the global A/G communication concept of operations considering voice and datalink working in combination in the long term (i.e. beyond 2030+), addressing all phases of flight. The research activities will assess how exchanges between pilots and controllers will be performed including which types of exchanges will use voice medium and which types of exchanges will use Data Link medium (i.e. CPDLC services and its future evolutions of CPDLC or equivalent services), in which circumstances each medium will be used and how datalink and voice will be combined in different environments.

Once the global A/G communication concept will be clarified, the project is expected to define in more details the A/G voice (sub-) concept of operations and will provide insight into the following operational questions:

  • How the future A/G voice communications will be managed (e.g. will they still operate under a broadcast principle? Is the party-line effect still required (like as provided by the current VHF system)? Or future A/G voice communication will be under a point-to-point principle and in which case how a communication will be established? Would A/G communications be a mix of broadcast and point-to-point? Would pilot to pilot voice communication be a requirement?
  • What will be the performance requirements (e.g. latency, continuity)?
  • How current and future voice “technologies” will be mixed during transition periods so that it is transparent to pilots and controllers (e.g. within the same areas when transitioning from legacy to new; between two areas (equipped and not yet equipped); supporting a mix of aircraft equipage)?
  • Which level of security will be required (e.g. encryption, authentication)?
  • What are the wide-area communications needs (e.g. should voice communication sessions be maintained during a flight between a pilot and the “in-charge” controller in case the flight centric concept would be applied)?
  • Which are the future automation needs connected to voice communications (e.g. speech recognition, handover, priority call…) and which operational requirements they would support?

Proposals will also address the extension of datalink (including below FL285 and considering the global A/G communication concept of operations as addressed at project start) and how it will make possible to maximise the benefits of many of the concepts currently being researched in the industrial research programme, e.g. dynamic uplink of custom or standard instrument departures (SID) during taxi, dynamic uplink of custom or standard arrival routes when the aircraft has already initiated descent, uplink of enhanced vertical clearances with one or multiple vertical constraints along the way for aircraft flying at any level. However, important challenges have been identified in this area, e.g. increased head-down time for pilots, need for lower latency in the more dynamic lower airspace and airport environment, etc.

The CONOPS for the extension of datalink should provide insight into the following operational questions:

  • How can the increased flight-crew head-down time be mitigated (e.g. autoload clearances only, HMI improvements, voice-recognition, reduced number of technical/system messages…)?
  • What would be the acceptable performances (e.g. latency) in the different environments?
  • Which level of automation should be further introduced? E.g. should in some environments hand-over between different ATSUs become seamless from the flight crew point of view (e.g. connected to ATC, with hand-over being transparent to ATC – no new log-on required when going from one ATSU to another)? Should coupling between Data Link and voice be introduced (e.g. change of voice “channel” be induced through datalink commands)?

Proposals must demonstrate awareness of the future A/G communication infrastructure (which is supported by LDACS, Satcom and AeroMACS operating under a multilink approach) and which will support the future A/G voice and Data Link communications. The selected team will work with A/G communication IR solutions (e.g. Solution 77 which will be the interface with other technical solutions e.g. LDACS) to consider the technical feasibility and technical impact that the choice of the concept of operation choices and each of the operational requirements would have on the future A/G communication architecture. The common operational and technical assessment will consider reducing requirements on aircraft configuration (e.g. reducing the number of or completely removing legacy avionics when installing avionics supporting new concepts).

Bids must demonstrate access to operational data related to the current datalink implementation in higher airspace in Europe and/or the US. A task should be planned earlier in the project to produce a report with the lessons learned from the implementation in the higher airspace and an analysis of what they may need to take into account in the datalink extension. Please note that the analysis of lessons learned should be restricted to the operational aspects (technical lessons-learned are explicitly out of the scope of this topic).

Proposals must also demonstrate awareness of the previous SESAR research in the area of extension of datalink. In particular, the output of the ATC Full datalink (AFD) demonstration project must be considered.

For the voice concept of operations, all operational environments where ATC is provided must be considered, including: en-route in high and low density (including both day and night shifts with band-boxed sectors), oceanic, polar, tower, TMA and approach. Both traditional ATC service based on geographical sectors and flight-centric (sector-less) ATC must be considered.

For the datalink extension concept of operations, all the operational environments of interest must be considered. The operational environments of interest are en-route airspace below flight level 285, TMA and approach and airport surface for operations at the apron after push-back and on the manoeuvring area. Use of datalink for clearance delivery while the aircraft is still at the gate (before push-back) shall also be considered.

Proposals must plan effort to bring the output of their research to ICAO as part of the dissemination of their work.

This topic explores the evolution of controller/pilot voice and datalink communication concept beyond what is currently covered by the industrial research programme.

In the area of voice communications, the current controller-pilot voice communications concept of operations is a de facto result of the way of working and of the performance of the legacy system (i.e. mainly the analogue DSB-AM VHF radio system). In the area of datalink, the current CPDLC is applicable only above FL285.

The research challenge is to develop the high-level global A/G communication concept of operations addressing how voice and data will be combined in the future to support the future ATM concept, what will be the role of voice exchanges and how they will be managed, and the concept of operations for the extension of datalink below its current scope.

The move towards new ways to support voice exchanges and the extension of the use of datalink beyond what is possible today are part of the digital aviation vision. They will enable the sustainable growth that is necessary to meet the capacity challenge that is described in the ATM Master Plan.