The workshop has specifically addressed the potential interest for the European civil aviation community of deploying, in some ten years time and for the sole purpose of Air Traffic Management, a new specifically tailored satellite based radio-communication system, in order to allow accommodation of the expected additional air traffic demand.
It is generally recognised that there is a requirement for providing additional Air/Ground communication capacity and capability in the European airspace in the future in order to accommodate air traffic growth, in a context where the available frequency spectrum resources at VHF will allow neither the extension of capacity with the existing system, nor the introduction of new systems supporting enhanced performances. Under such circumstances, the deployment of a satellite-based system appears to be an attractive proposition. There exist however at present no system, which would readily meet the technical requirements for this type of service. Furthermore, the institutional issues regarding the joint operation of a safety of life critical, as well as security sensitive radio-communication service, in a multi-national environment, also still remain to be addressed.
ESA has been conducting over the passed years, under the name "SDLS", studies on the feasibility of developing specific satellite communication techniques for the purpose of supporting the Air/Ground communications required for Air traffic Management. The potential benefit for aviation of deploying such a system based upon such techniques could be substantial, considering the need for additional systems in high-density airspace. The dramatic range extension capability of satellites could also allow to adequately cover oceans and other remote areas. The concept does include the requirement to address a very large user market, including in particular the smaller aircraft and also to provide the capability for worldwide coverage with a rather limited cost infrastructure (both satellites and Earth stations).
Considering the crucial need for complementing the terrestrial-based communication infrastructure in some parts of Europe, Eurocontrol has started investigations of satellite-based communication systems. Based on the preliminary positive results, consideration of satellite-based systems has been introduced in the Eurocontrol communication strategy. In parallel, ICAO, at their latest Air Navigation Conference at State level (ANC 11 in Sept 2003), recognised the need to investigate new Air/Ground communication technologies including satellite-based services. (Recommendation ANC11 7/4).
ESA and Eurocontrol are now since July 2002 closely cooperating on the aeronautical satellite communication issue in the framework of a Memorandum of Cooperation in force between the two Agencies.
All presentations from the workshop on "Satellite Data Link System"(SDLS) held at ESTEC Noordwijk (The Netherlands) on November 25th 2004 are available online (ESA Member States Only). To access them, please refer to "Related Links" on the right side.