Space-based systems are helping to deliver a wide range of operational services for the aviation industry, by integrating multiple technologies into new applications.
Often the space elements are a very relevant part of an astonishingly large variety of applications.
Originating in the needs of the Belgian and Dutch air forces, FlySafe reduces bird strikes and last-minute flight cancellations, by improving the monitoring and prediction of bird movements.
This involves bird-tagging with satellite navigation transponders and the incorporation of earth observation data into models of bird migrations.
A follow-on project aims at Bird Strike Risk Reduction for Civil Aviation. Conjoint with the user communities, both projects have been realised through ESA’s IAP programme (ARTES Element 20) which focuses on the combination of multiple space and non-space systems to meet some very varied end user needs.
S2BAS (Space Services Benefits in Aviation Systems) is a project to develop, integrate and demonstrate pre-operational services that improve access and operations for small and regional airports. The aim is improvement in both safety and operating costs.
The system will provide flight procedures and flight assistance services under Instrument Flight Rules, in the proximity of airports that cannot afford conventional solutions. Earth Observation is used for production of Aerodrome Obstacle Charts, whilst GNSS is used for air navigation. Finally satellite communications are used for remote airport management and control.
TEMPUS is an operational service developed by RDT from techniques for remotely monitoring the health of astronauts. In use with Etihad, Virgin and BMI, it deploys compact units in overhead lockers for use by untrained personnel during in-flight medical emergencies. Satellite communications are used to transmit parameters such as heart rate, temperature and blood pressure to a telemedicine centre, for analysis by medical staff who can who can gain more information by a voice and video link. This aids decisions on aircraft diversion, with the potential to save lives and money.
ESA’s telemedicine initiatives are aided by partners such as the Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedicine in Tromso, hosting the IAP Ambassador Platform for e-Health in Inaccessible Regions (eHIR-AP).
Projects for small and medium sized aircraft
SASISA, Small Aircraft Services for Instant Situational Awareness, supports civil protection agencies in addressing natural and man-made disasters. It enables an aircraft designed as an airborne sensing platform to transmit large volumes of geo-referenced data via satellite communications in near real time.
Other aviation projects have been supported through ESA’s SATCOM-APPS programme (ARTES 3-4 element) which focuses on telecommunications applications. These include AeroFleet, a solution for operators of small and medium sized fixed and rotary wing aircraft, providing communications and tracking for efficient fleet management, with graphical in-cabin presentation of information from the ground.
A related project developed an In-Flight Reporting Tool, facilitating reporting of airline operational data via satcoms, with a ground based server to make reports available to authorised personnel and legacy systems via the Internet.
Moving down in aircraft size, the BirdCom project integrated satcoms, satnav and commercial computing modules into an airborne terminal aimed at ultra-light aviation, which has been tested with the application software needed to support new services.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
Besides small aircraft, ESA is very active in the UAS market, including a partnership with the EDA (European Defence Agency) to support two parallel feasibility studies.
The SINUE project not only combines satellite communications and navigation for operation of UAS beyond line of sight, but also addresses potential UAS integration into non-segregated airspace. Besides aircraft control and data transmission from payload sensors, the system relays voice communications between the pilot on the ground and air traffic controllers.
To follow-up on the feasibility studies, ESA in cooperation with EDA supports the DeSIRE demonstration project. This aims at demonstrating the value of space for UAS-based services and for UAS safe insertion in non-segregated airspace.
Another IAP project, UASatCom, applies high speed satellite communication services to support exploration and monitoring activities using small UAS in the oil and gas industry.
The IAP and SATCOM-APPS programmes use continuously open calls, which enables anyone to submit proposals for direct negotiation, or to suggest ideas for an open industry competition. Through mechanisms such as these, ESA will continue to encourage potential users in the aviation sector to explore new ways in which space can help them.