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Demonstration of ATM Improvements Generated by Initial Trajectory Sharing - Airspace User Part

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - DIGITS-AU (Demonstration of ATM Improvements Generated by Initial Trajectory Sharing- Airspace User Part)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2020-12-31

Topic: Demonstration of Initial Trajectory Information Sharing through revenue flights

In a large-scale demonstration of technology hundred A320 Family aircraft will be upgraded to ATN B2 capability between early 2019 and mid-2020 through the Airbus FANS C avionics product enabling the sharing of the entire trajectory predicted by the aircraft with Air Traffic Control.
In May 2018 DIGITS-AU was kicked-off, an Airbus-led project seeking to assess the benefits for air traffic management when sharing aircrafts' predicted trajectory data with air traffic control.
DIGITS-AU stands for Demonstration of air traffic management Improvements Generated by Initial Trajectory Sharing – Airspace User part and contributes to the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative.
With the cooperation of seven European airlines (Air France, British Airways, EasyJet, Iberia, Novair, Wizzair Hungary, Wizzair UK), the large-scale demonstration will last more than a year and collect data from over 20,000 flights. These airspace users are reflecting a variety of operators and flights, which were operated under many operational conditions such as routes throughout Europe under different weather and seasonal conditions and according to different industrial policies, i.e. the flights are considered a good snapshot of representative operational use. Each aircraft will be equipped with the latest FANS (Future Air Navigation System) technology. Known as FANS C, it combines the datalink capabilities of FANS A+ and FANS B+ with new Aeronautical Telecommunications Network Baseline 2 (ATN B2) features that allow for the transmission of the complete predicted four-dimensional aircraft trajectory (3D + time).
Working in cooperation with its sister project DIGITS, also led by Airbus Air Traffic Management (ATM) Engineering, the DIGITS-AU consortium collaborates closely with air navigation service providers, avionics suppliers and ATM ground industry. In parallel, other SESAR projects work to integrate the predicted trajectory with air traffic controllers’ support tools. The overall goal is to optimise the aircraft’s trajectory and make traffic flows more fluid. “As a result, there will be improved efficiency for airspace users and air navigation service providers,” says DIGITS-AU project leader Tom Maier from Airbus ATM Engineering.
By early 2019 aircraft will start to be fitted with ATN B2 capability, either during final assembly or through retrofit. Then, aircraft from the participating airlines will generate ‘extended projected profiles’ (the four-dimensional flight path) data via downlink messages triggered by air traffic control. Analysis of this ‘big data’ will be enriched with feedback captured from controllers and pilots so that valuable operational experience will be built up to support the general deployment.
“DIGITS/-AU constitutes a concrete contribution to the aviation industry’s transformation process towards digitalisation with increasing automation and exchange of data among all parts of the aviation value chain for increased safety and efficiency,” says Hugues de Beco, Airbus head of ATM and Multi-Programme Projects. “Airbus is proud to play such a vital role in these projects.”

Project abstract and conclusion:
The project proved via around 20 000 revenue flights, close to 50 000 flights/ANSP combinations, that both the airborne and ground technology is mature and stable. The first applications have been trialed and basic versions of the display of the downlinked Extended Projected Profile (EPP) and Discrepancy Algorithm have been proven via the MUAC pre-operational use with more than 12 000 flights. More enhanced versions of the applications using ADS-C data have been trialed in shadow mode, resulting in further enhancements and evolutions to be planned.
By the end of 2020, around 1.4 million ADS-C transactions have been recorded.
Overall, the downlinked data provides food-for-thought for many new ideas and can be input for further analysis under innovative research, but also to confirm assumptions taken in e.g. data link capacity studies.
Additionally, data recorded under PJ31 has been made available to other SESAR2020 Wave 1 projects to start working on e.g. enhancing Trajectory Predictions.
Project PJ31 has built the foundation layer for further demonstrations with e.g. more ground partners under Wave 3 PJ38 ADSCENSIO, but also paved the way for deployment preparation as mandated under the CP1 AF#6 Initial Trajectory Sharing.
Full detailed conclusions are available in the PJ31 DIGITS Demonstration Report accessible on the SESAR JU web site.
- 91 aircraft upgraded to ATS-B2 capability
- Generic training media produced
- Training customized to each airline's need and deployed to almost 10 000 pilots
- DIGITS procedures applied in daily operations by all participating airlines: AFR, BAW, EZY, IBE, NVR, WZZ, WUK
- More than 20 000 successful DIGITS flights produced as of 31-Dec-2020
- Airline provide continuous support to data analysis through flight crew feedback and provision of recorded data
- Non Disclosure Agreements for the systematic provision of in-flight-recorded data put in place for participating airlines.
- Airline partners contributed to numerous meetings and workshops with sister-project PJ31
- DIGITS-AU airline partners were engaged in WAC 2019 media event organized by Airbus for the promotion of the 4D operational concept
- DIGITS and DIGITS-AU Open Day webinar was organized on Dec 1-2, 2020 as a dissemination and communication event providing the overall overview, results and conclusions of this global project. This successful Web Live event was followed by 250+ participants from Europe and other parts of the world.
Progress beyond state of the art: Contributions in the preparation of 4D operational deployment through world's first exposure of ADS-C EPP exchange to the airlines' routine operational environment.
Results: At the end of the project in Dec 2020, 91 aircraft have been upgraded to ATS-B2 capability and around 20 000 successful DIGITS flight have been produced with recorded data.
Socio-economic impact and wider societal implications: Contribute to fluidity of air traffic resulting in more fuel efficient trajectories flown